Family Night Ideas

Family Night Ideas

Article by families with purpose

Looking for some new and interesting family night ideas?  Then be sure to read through our list of ideas here as well as our family time ideas on our blog.

Family Art Night – This idea is compliments of Michelle B., a reader of our newsletter
“Each member of our family likes different kinds of art/crafts and our 10 year old would rather play road hockey, but this has seemed to catch even his attention. We all come up with ideas of how we would like to express ourselves through art. We have talked about famous artists, their unique styles and have several friends who are artisans who have shared their vision with us. We pick a project, purchase the supplies together i.e. colors, mediums etc. Then, usually on a Saturday night, we do a cooperative large scale art project together while listening to music. This certainly beats the old stand by of renting a movie and you end up with something amazing and meaningful. We have done a very big graffiti piece that now hangs framed in our dinning room. It is original and everyone asks us about it. This was our 10 year old’s idea when we discussed with him all the doodling on his school work. Family art night was an outlet for creative energy and a lesson in where and when such art can take place.  We have two younger children as well. This family art night encompasses all ages and skill levels.”

“We are working on a family tree canvas that will have leaves painted on it with all our hand prints. This might be our Easter gift to the grandparents! We also hope to do a garden art project this summer with indigenous plants/wood. This has been a great way to just talk with each other and not have the TV or computer on. Family art night does not have to be complicated or detailed, just full of family imagination.”

Make a Family Mailbox
Kids love getting mail and as long as the mail isn’t bills, parents love mail too. Add some zip to your family communications by creating a family mailbox. Great for leaving messages of encouragement, love, and support for fellow family members.

Family Totem Pole
If you enjoy the outdoors, why not try making a family totem pole.  Using items you collect on your next nature or hiking trip in addition to other supplies you might have around the home, create a totem pole that represents the family.  Make sure every family member is represented.

Family Newsletter
Give your family communication a whole new twist with a Family Newsletter.  They are fun, educational, and more importantly a great way to keep families connected. 

Family Banner
Making a family banner is a fun way for everyone to express themselves and gives the family something to display and look at everyday.

Family Vacation Jar
A family vacation jar (or box) is a decorated jar used to save for the next big adventure. Decorated with pictures and words of places you want to visit or have visited, the jar becomes a daily visual reminder of your dreams.

Make Dinner Time Fun
Make family nights special by starting off with a great meal.  Add some fun to your family meals by playing family dinner games.  Games add fun to the family dinner, open up family conversation, breakup the monotony of family dinner, and encourage children to eat their vegetables and drink their milk!

Family Game Night
Games are a great way to bring the family together as well as teach children how to be good winners and losers.  Why not try to set aside one night a week or month as family game night.  

Create a Family Cookbook
Create a family cookbook by asking family members to send you copies of their favorite recipes.  After the family cookbooks have been completed, you can give them as gifts on birthday’s, Mother’s Day, or at Christmas or Hanukkah.

American Idol
Do you have a family that loves to sing and dance?  Then try holding your own American Idol show.  Pick one or two family members to be the judges and let the rest compete to see who is the next American Idol.  To make the show more real, you may want to try using a Karaoke Machine or microphone.

Charades
Acting more your style?  Then try a fun game of Charades.  Simply makeup charade ideas and write on a piece of paper.  Divide the family into teams and act away.

Dinner and a Movie
Love to cook?  Then try spending an evening whipping up one of your favorite meals together and finishing up with dessert and a movie.  Give each family member a job in the meal preparation, so that everyone is included.  Need some suggestions for easy and quick family meals?  Then check out FamilyFun’s Cookbook or FamilyFun Recipe Finder.  Also check out gradingthemovies.com, kids-in-mind.com, or  Common Sense Media for a quick and easy way to check the appropriateness of a movie for young eyes.

Family Video and Picture Night
Similar to our dinner and movie night, but rather than watch Hollywood movies, why not spend an evening watching old family videos or leafing through family photos.  Kids love to see themselves when they were babies or reminiscing about last years family vacation.  Also, don’t forget your wedding video.  Kids really get a kick out of watching their parents tie the knot.

Hiking, Biking, and Exploring
How about an adventure into the outdoors?  Take advantage of some of the great national parks and hiking trails and spend your day hiking, exploring, and picnicking.

Volunteer Together as a Family
Why not spend your family time helping others in need?  Working together as a family to help others in need can be an incredibly powerful way of building family bonds and developing a great sense of pride and fulfillment in all family members.  Visit our Family Giving section for great ideas on how to give to others in need.

Dinner with Mom and Dad
Finding quality one on one time with each child can be very difficult.  One way of fitting this quality time in is to plan a special breakfast or dinner out with each child either once a week or once a month.  Get a sitter for the other children and just take one child at a time.  This will give each child the opportunity to spend just with you and feel special at the same time.

Surprise Lunch
Why not surprise your child for lunch one day at school?  If your school allows it, join the child for lunch in the cafeteria or better yet pack a quick picnic lunch to share at a nearby park.  Don’t tell them ahead of time you are coming.  This makes the lunch all the more special.

Cousins Camp
If you are like many families, cousins often don’t live close enough to one another to see each other on a regular basis.  To foster the family ties, and keep cousins close, try organizing a cousins camp where the cousins get together either at one of the aunt/uncle’s home or even better at Grandma and Grandad’s for a few days of fun.

Backyard Campouts
Backyard camp outs are a great way to get the camping experience without the hassle of packing.  Pitch your tent in the backyard and roast your marshmallows over the coals of an inexpensive charcoal grill.  You can tell ghost stories ,catch lightening bugs in a glass jar, and look for some of the great constellations in the sky.

Breakfast in the Park
Beat the summer heat by having your outdoor fun early in the morning.  Pack a simple breakfast of muffins, yogurt, fruit, and juice boxes/water, invite your closest friends and head to the nearest park.  Let the kids run and play or if you prefer you can use the opportunity to play some great outdoor games.

Breakfast Treat
I’m certainly not a “morning person,” but my kids and I have been taking a day or two a week and waking up a little bit earlier to go out for breakfast before school starts.  It doesn’t have to be any place special.  We’ve really just enjoy going to a local bagel shop and getting bagels.

The customers in the shop are usually business people picking up large orders for their offices, or just people getting started on their work day.  They all seem to get a kick out of watching the kids giggling and playing together.  Smiles are plentiful and it really sets a nice tone for the day.

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Are you a too-good mother?

Are you a too-good mother?
Article by Parent 24

Being a good mother is all about meeting your child’s needs, always being there for them, jumping to comfort them when they’re crying or hurt. Helping them every step of the way. Right? Actually, no. Not unless you want to come dangerously close to over-mothering your child. 

But how bad could that be? I hear you asking. Surely being too good a mother can’t be a problem? Think again. A Pretoria court recently ruled in favour of a divorced father wanting custody of his overweight and over-medicated 11-year-old boy.

The judge took the advice of an educational psychologist who said the mother was ?over-mothering? the child by, amongst other things, being unable to manage the child’s weight problem and taking him for unnecessary doctor’s visits.

Are you a too-good mother?

Although many people talk about over-mothering, psychologists prefer the term ?too-good mothering?, which was first used by English paediatrician and psychiatrist, Donald Winnicott. He warned that paying too much attention to a child’s needs could cause serious damage to the child’s emotional development.

Winnicott stated that mothers who ?do all the right things at the right moments? were in fact severely harming their child ? causing the child to either permanently regress or later on, reject them. He famously said: ?A mother who fits in with a baby?s desires too well is not a good mother?.

Huh? Surely that can’t be right? But Bellville clinical psychologist Hugo Theron points out that it is important for children to begin meeting their own demands ? and for parents to know intuitively when to let this happen. This may begin very early on, like when a baby becomes frustrated in reaching for a toy. Don’t be tempted to give it to him, but encourage him to find a way of getting it himself.

As Theron points out, the problem is that many parents are unaware of what they are doing, thinking they are doing the right thing when the opposite is true. He mentions for instance, a working mother buying toys or sweets for a difficult child in a supermarket at the end of a long day. Giving in to the child’s demands makes the guilty mother feel better and pleases the child in that moment ? but there may be long-term consequences to these small, seemingly harmless acts.

Parents often don’t realise that in all of their actions there are messages that are being sent to their children, even their babies. By doing everything for them, you could be telling your child either that you don’t trust them to do something or that you think they are unable to do it by themselves. This could lead to children becoming overly dependent on their parents, insecure or passive or could lead to acts of rebellion later on. Over-mothered children may also reject their parents completely ? much to the horror of the ?good? mother. Over-mothering or too-good mothering is especially problematic in homes where there is an absent father.

In terms of their long-term development, over-mothered children may remain immature and may be hampered in their development with their mothers. They may be slow to speak and have difficult relationships not only with their mothers but with others, says Juliet Hopkins in her article: ?The dangers and deprivations of too-good mothering?.

The moral of the story seems to be to let your toddlers and children become frustrated, angry and upset sometimes ? to allow them to see your displeasure when they do something wrong and let them ?make it up to you? again ? a crucial exercise, which teaches them empathy and to care for others, says Hopkins.      

Putting it all into perspective, is Theron, who says parents should aim to provide the scaffolding while letting their children do the actual building themselves: ?Be present, but don’t do everything for the child. Be a bit like a life coach.?
 
Have you seen examples of over-mothering ? or fathering?

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FAMILY DINNERS

FAMILY DINNERS
Articale by Claire Marketos

In today?s hectic world it can be difficult to find the time for the family to all come together. Parents get home after the children have gone to bed, and teens are eating their dinner in front of the television. Communication in the house is hurried and often argumentative and everyone is feeling tired and stressed. So how do you reconnect with your children and improve communication?

You schedule connection time in your day, the same way you schedule extra murals or social events. Having a family dinner where you all sit down at the dining room table to eat with no distractions, is a great way to facilitate conversation with your children and should provide a safe forum for them to express their feelings.

Ask them questions, but try to avoid getting into arguments. Listen attentively and acknowledge their feelings. Use this time as an opportunity to teach effective problem solving techniques, by debating the possible outcomes to a problem. Allow your teen to decide based on the discussion as to the best possible solution to a problem.

The importance of the conversations between parents and children at family dinners was highlighted again in recent research by Columbia University: ?The more often children have dinners with their parents, the less likely they are to smoke, drink or use drugs, and that parental engagement fostered around the dinner table is one of the most potent tools to help parents raise healthy, drug-free children. ? J.A. Califano, Jr. The study also revealed that most teens recognise the importance of family dinners and 60% wish they could have dinner with their parents more than five times a week.

Having dinner together can also be a great way to introduce new foods and to model good table manners and eating habits, especially for younger children. Be upbeat about foods the children don’t want to eat by encouraging rather than forcing them to eat those foods.

Getting together as a family for breakfast can be an option if you find it difficult to meet for dinner, but set aside enough time for relaxation and conversation. If the children are feeling rushed they are unlikely to open up.  
Eating together is a wonderful way to strengthen family ties, and you will be amazed at the things you will learn from your children. “Food to a large extent is what holds a society together and eating is closely linked to deep spiritual experiences.”Peter Farb and George Armelagos

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Can you give your baby too much attention?

Can you give your baby too much attention?

I had taken a family – mum dad and baby – to an antenatal class to demonstrate baby massage to the pregnant parents. As this gorgeous little three month old chuckled with glee, holding out her tiny leg for a massage, one of the expectant fathers asked, ?does this mean she will be ?high maintenance? later on??

Although I jokingly deflected his question, I realized a few comments later that there was already a fear among the group about creating bad habits and ?spoiling? babies by giving them too much attention. Sadly, I also meet many new parents who feel they need to justify their actions or seek approval because their babies need help to settle or love to be held lots. For many parents, it seems that this fear of ?bad habits? is clouding the joy of being with their babies.

There is a lot of pressure to have a ?good baby? – a baby who will self settle and sleep for hours or at least a baby who doesn?t demand attention. The truth is, there is no such person as a ?good? baby: babies are just like the rest of us with legitimate emotional needs as well as the more obvious physical needs to be clean and fed. Some little people are more sensitive and some are more social than others. Also, just like us, some days they need extra cuddles (as do their mothers on these high need days!).

When we consider the baby?s perspective and how profound the sensory changes are from womb to room, is it any wonder that a tiny helpless being with limited communication and cognitive skills needs to be held close against a comforting heartbeat and rocked to feel secure and calm? To expect anything less of a newborn would be as unreasonable as expecting a little baby to dress or feed herself – learning to settle without cuddles is a developmental process that can?t be hurried without a lot of angst for both baby and mum, in many cases.

The good news is that your loving attention can make your baby smarter: neuroscientists and clinicians have documented that loving interactions that are sensitive to a child?s needs influence the way the brain grows and can increase the number of connections between nerve cells. Other research shows that rather than becoming ?high maintenance?, babies whose needs are responded to in the first six months of life are less demanding toddlers. Erik Erikson, a classic researcher of child development, labels the first year of an infant?s life ?Trust vs. Mistrust,? and describes it as the development of the ego. This means that if the baby?s needs are met, he feels worthy and develops into a confident, independent person.

So, rather than letting guilt or concern that you may be creating ?bad habits? or extra work in the long run by giving your baby ?too much? attention, why not relax and enjoy every sweet cuddle and coo. There will be plenty of time later on to change any habit ?gradually with love? and, whether you want to stop rocking your baby to sleep or encourage him to amuse himself on the floor, transitions will be easier when your child is developmentally ready. Meanwhile, ignore the critics who caution that you will spoil your little one as you consider the words of American paediatric nurse specialist Kittie Frantz who advises, ?you?re not managing an inconvenience, you?re raising a human being.?

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DEALING WITH ANXIETY AT THE START OF A NEW SCHOOL YEAR

DEALING WITH ANXIETY AT THE START OF A NEW SCHOOL YEAR
By Claire Marketos
www.inspiredparenting.co.za

?I don?t want to go to school,? Your child tells you a few days before the start of the new school year. Disappointed you want to respond with anger, but take a deep breath and spend some time listening to what is troubling your child as it will provide you with the information you need to help her cope with feelings of anxiety.

Listening means giving your child the space to express herself without judgment and criticism. Empathically acknowledge her feelings and reassure her that she has your love and support.

We all know how stressful change can be and for some children change is extremely nerve-racking. Children thrive on consistency and predictability, so not knowing who her teacher will be or what she can expect on the first day of school can be scary for her.

While you cannot predict who her teacher/s will be for the year, you can give her coping techniques such as deep breathing, focusing on the positives, (what she likes about her new teacher), and effective note taking, (writing down important things her teacher says on a note pad so she doesn?t forget them by the time she gets home). Stay with her on the first day until she has been placed with her new teacher and give her the thumbs up before you leave.

If your child is worrying about being put in a class with a strict teacher, help her devise a plan for the year. Being helpful, kind, diligent and listening well are traits that all teachers value in children and which can be beneficial in endearing her to a stern teacher.

Ideally the teacher should be meeting the needs of the children, but teaching your child how to read a person?s body language, and learning how to manage different personalities are useful skills that will be beneficial for her throughout her life. Obviously you should never subject your child to a teacher who ridicules or taunts children. This is bullying and is unacceptable.

Children attach to friends and teachers during the year so being separated from a teacher they were fond of and their best friends can be like a death for them. They need time to mourn the loss and will often want to go back and visit the teacher from the previous year. Be patient while your child works through her feelings and encourage her to meet up with her friends at break and after school as well as persuade her to make a new friend.

Moving up a grade can bring perceived pressures for children as they believe they will not cope with the harder assignments. Reassure your child by telling her that you will provide her with the support and help she may need to do well. Explain that the school year usually starts with revision and that she should let you know if she experiences difficulties. Knowing that she has your support will give her the confidence to try new things.  

Help your child organize her school bag, files, books, and sports equipment as she familiarizes herself with a new timetable. Giving her clever practical tips you know that work to help organise herself will produce feelings of independence and empowerment.

Most anxiety and stress in children comes from needing to meet the high standards their parents set for them and constantly wanting to please their parents. Reassess your expectations for your child, and find new ways of interacting with her especially when it comes to homework. If she tells you she is not enjoying a particular after school activity allow her to drop it, even if it means you have to give up your dreams. A childhood controlled is an adulthood destined for disappointment and misery.

Comfort your child by telling her positive stories about how you coped with stress and anxiety when you were at school. Children love to hear stories and knowing that you coped and survived will give her the strength to do the same.

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STARTING NURSERY SCHOOL

STARTING NURSERY SCHOOL
Article by Claire Marketos
www.inspiredparenting.co.za

You have a lump in your throat and feel anxious about dropping your little one off at nursery school. Trying to hide your thoughts from your child and hoping that he will settle easily, he senses your concern and is reluctant to go. It can be traumatic for some little ones having to separate from being with mom or a caregiver all day. Adjusting to life at nursery school can take a while.

Bearing this in mind be patient and sensitive to your child?s needs, giving him the space to express his fears, concerns, likes and dislikes around school. Acknowledge his feelings and listen carefully to what he is saying as it will guide you and the teachers in helping him settle. Here are some more tips:

* Chat to your child in a positive way before school starts. He will probably have met his teacher and visited the school so ask him what he liked and what he is looking forward to as well as what he is apprehensive about. Acknowledge his feelings and reassure him. If you find the dialogue is upsetting him then change the conversation and try again later. You don?t want to create uneasiness, the very thing you are trying to manage.  

* Explain to him what will happen on the first day: You or dad will get him ready, walk him in to school and stay with him for a while. Then he will go with his teacher and new friends to paint, play, eat his snack, and listen to stories. Soon after that you will come back to fetch him.

* Let him choose his school bag and help you pack his lunch box. Packing a comforter such as a T shirt of yours he can hug if he feels lonely or some of your kisses in an envelope he can draw on if he needs one, may help him if he is very nervous. Avoid sending toys to school.  

* It is important that you are calm and in control on the first day and can separate easily from your little one. If you have difficulties leaving your child and keep going back to say goodbye you will make your child fretful. Take your partner with you if it will help ease your angst.

* Ask the staff at the school to help you. Sensitive teachers and caregivers are adept at acknowledging a child’s feelings and making him feel safe and secure. They can settle a child fairly quickly, ensuring he remains happy for the rest of the day.

* When you drop your child off walk around the class with him and talk about all the interesting things you can see. Chat to some of the other children, and encourage your child to go and play with them.

* Read your little one a story from one of the books in the class, or start a puzzle with him, which the teacher or caregiver can complete when you leave.

* Then tell your child you are going to work or the shops and will be back later to fetch him. Explain to him that you will never leave him, and you will always come back to fetch him. One kiss and one hug goodbye and hand your child over to a teacher. Try not to hang around once you?ve said goodbye as it prolongs the worry around you leaving.

* Do not be afraid of asking a specific teacher or caregiver that you think is kind and sensitive to help you. Be quite forceful so that your child’s needs are met.

* By all means arrange with the school to phone later and see how your child is doing.

* When you collect your child ensure you are on time and don’t tell him you missed him or ask him if he is allright .Rather focus on all the fun things he did and the other kids in the class. If little one tells you he missed you, reassure him by saying, “Yes I know it’s hard when mom has to go to work. I?m here now. I came back to fetch you.”

* The next morning when you take him to school, talk about something positive he enjoyed doing yesterday, or an activity he can look forward to during the day like baker man, water play, or painting.

*If your child continues crying after several weeks and is clearly not settling down, you should speak to the teachers to establish what the underlying cause might be.

Remember that your child is still very young, and it is essential that he is happy at school, and  his needs are being met at all times. If he is not happy, it may be necessary to look at other nursery schools or he may be better off at home with you or a caring nanny for another six months

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Teach a Child to Read

Teach a Child to Read
Article by www.succeedtoread.com

Here are some questions asked by parents, grandparents, caregivers and teachers.

Question: I know my son can read lots of words from a list. But when I pull out a book, he freaks. He can’t read words in a book.
Answer: I have met children who read words on lists, and aren’t able to recognize the same words on the page of a book. Remember how you used to feed pureed peaches, spoonful by spoonful to your child? This is similar to helping him read pages in a book.

* Choose some phrases-two or three words, from a reading selection. Write them on note cards, and teach them to your child.
* Next, write or type two sentences from the selection on a piece of paper. Using the To, With, and By technique help your child to read the sentences.
* Open the book and show him where the sentences are located. Ask him to read them to you. Let him compare the same sentences written on paper and in the book.
* Now type a couple of paragraphs from his favorite book onto a sheet of paper. Using To, With and By, help him to read these sentences. Then have him read them from his book. You are making a connection between words on lists and sentences in books. He will realize that he can read sentences in books-with your help. His resistance to books will decrease over time.

Question: My child cries when I ask her to read a book with me. Will this ever stop?
Answer: My daughter cried when she was learning how to read. It was a struggle every day to get her to the table. (As you can imagine, this was not our favorite time of day!) Your child needs to know the hard part of reading is at the beginning, and it will get easier as she practices. Take her to the store to choose some candy or stickers. These will be used for daily rewards for her efforts in reading. Praise her for little victories. Your child will hear herself improve over time. She may enjoy making homemade books. Create success in her reading by doing To, With, and By on a selection every day. After a while she will be less afraid to tackle new selections. She will be pulling your sleeve and asking, “When are we going to the library?” And you will be able to put away the Kleenex box.

Question: My daughter mixes up letters d and b, and says the word saw when she sees the word was. Does she have dyslexia?
Answer: Dyslexia is broadly defined in the dictionary as “an impairment of the ability to read.”1 Some scientists describe dyslexia as being a deficiency in the language system that processes the sounds of speech, in the brain.2 Many children who seem to have dyslexic-like tendencies begin to read better when they do activities that help to increase their auditory skills. Mixing up letters d and b is a visual confusion, not knowing which way the “tummy” of the letter faces-to the left or right. (This has nothing to do with auditory issues that earmark a problem with dyslexia.) A child who says dog for bog usually needs practice in knowing left from right. In most children this letter confusion corrects itself by the end of third grade. A child who sees the word was and says saw needs practice in visual discrimination. This can be as simple as writing the words saw and was on note cards. Show your child the note cards, and ask her to tell you differences she sees between the two sight words – was, saw. Or, play the Find That Word game to highlight a chosen word.
Find that Word Game

* Choose a word that your child often confuses such as was. Write it on a note card.
* Show your child the note card, and make sure she knows what the word means.
* Open a children’s magazine such as Ranger Rick and ask your child to circle every was on the page. She gets five points for each was she circles, and loses two points for every was she misses.
* On a different day, play this same game with the word saw.

Don’t let was, saw, b’s and d’s drive you crazy. Just do a couple of minutes of review each night, and pretty soon your child will know her p’s and q’s too!

1 Random House Webster’s Dictionary, Third Edition, (New York: Ballantine Books, 1998).
2 Sally Shaywitz. “Dyslexia,” New England Journal of Medicine 338, no. 5 (January 29, 1998): 307-312.

Question: My son is in fourth grade. He definitely isn’t fluent when reading out loud. Should I make him read out loud every night, or should he be reading silently?
Answer: Silent reading is more efficient than reading out loud. Your child can learn to read faster, and possibly have better comprehension when he reads silently. After third grade, the emphasis in school is on silent reading. Therefore, your child should practice five to ten minutes of each: reading out loud and silent reading when you work together on reading skills. It is more difficult to know what’s going on when your child is reading silently. You will have to ask questions to monitor his comprehension after he has read a selection silently. Make sure the reading selection is on your child’s Independent Reading level-no more than one or two mistakes for every twenty words. For your child to be successful in reading silently, preteach the most important vocabulary words and concepts. This gives him the necessary prior knowledge for good comprehension. Silent reading is an important skill that your child must develop to do well in school. Do some silent reading yourself while he’s reading silently. He might become interested in your book someday.


Question:
My child reads easy books. He is eleven years old and he only likes to read Dr. Seuss books. He’s not going to get to college this way.
Answer: If you are in this position, your child needs your intervention right away. Many parents blame their child for being lazy. They don’t realize that their child is missing necessary tools for better reading. You can’t build a house without hammer and nails! Begin by looking at his personal gaps in reading skills. Test his knowledge of alphabet letters and sounds. Don’t make him work by himself reading books. Create a bridge from Dr. Seuss to fifth-grade books for him. Take time to read short selections using the To, With, and By technique every day. Over time, he will feel more successful in reading. He will discover new topics that interest him. Eventually, The Cat in the Hat will be put in the closet to make room on the shelf for Summer of the Monkeys or The Chronicles of Narnia.

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Kids Fun Stuff for Car Trips

Kids Fun Stuff for Car Trips
Article by About.com

The world is full of commercial products that can help keep kids amused on a long car ride: from classic board games in travel forms, to the latest apps and electronics. Below, we hope to give you some simpler ideas for fun kids’ stuff for car rides, or plane rides, for several age groups.

For Babies and Toddlers
Sometimes the simplest – and least expensive– things can delight a baby (at least for a few minutes.) Such as a couple of pieces of mega-blocks that she can try to piece together. Or a few magnetic stick-together blocks. Or a safe little plastic mirror.

Simple, inexpensive, and easy to bring along:

* bubbles (use them in the airport, during spare hours between flights)
* balls (for rest areas during car trips)
* nested containers, and objects to put into them

See also: excellent advice on Road Trips with Toddlers

Kids Fun Stuff – Pre-Schoolers
This is a great age for picture books, stickers and activity books, pop-up books, and other low-tech toys and books you can go out and buy, sometimes available low-cost at a dollar store.

Pre-schoolers can also be amused by simple things from home:

* masking tape – kids have fun just ticking it, unsticking it, etc.
* post-it notes
* paper punch
* wrapped up presents, or snacks – triple-wrapped; the unwrapping is the fun part
* metal tray, and magnets
* learn a long story and tell it well: kids like to hear the same story over and over

Kindergartners to to Grade 2’s
This is a great age for activity sets: stick-on play sets, craft sets (with yarn or felt), booklets of tattoos, colored beeswax to model with…

This is also a good age for the popular Leapfrog Leapster handheld games for ages 4 to 8: games feature popular animated characters, but with an educational twist.

Kids this age can also have great fun with simple travel games, such as the License Plate Game.

And they can still be captivated by the simple magic of telling a story. One reader sent in the suggestion of a “story bag”: write phrases on scraps of paper; pull one out of the bag, start a story, pull out another one….

Older Kids’ Fun Stuff
Yes, DVD players while the hours away nicely, on a long car ride. But give a thought also to audiobooks, and especially to listening to the audiobook together, through your vehicle’s sound system: kids aren’t glued to yet-another screen; there is still a shared experience of watching the landscape outside the car; meanwhile kids use their mind’s eye to picture the story, and the whole family shares the story experience together.

Also for older kids: visit a good kids’ bookstore and check out the non-book items, such as the latest card-based games or puzzle games that are perfect to tote along on a trip. Travel-sized board games are great as well.

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Strategies to Make Anytime With Your Child Quality Time

Strategies to Make Anytime With Your Child Quality Time
Article by www.family.go.com

Working and raising children is the great balancing act that an increasing number of parents perform.

As a mother of two grown children, I know first hand what a challenge it is to raise kids and work simultaneously.

Parents who work outside the home face many dilemmas and oftentimes deal with a significant amount of guilt. Am I a good parent if I opt to return to work? Will my children suffer if I put them in daycare? How can I work and still raise healthy and well-adjusted kids?

According to researchers in a wide range of fields, the time young children spend with their parents is essential for their healthy development. As such, parents should not feel guilty about working outside the home, but they should enjoy and make the most of the time they do spend with their children. In other words, make it “quality time.”

Quality time is defined by development experts as meaningful time parents spend nurturing and teaching their children, and is not just reserved for stay-at-home moms or dads. Time-crunched working parents take note: You too can have quality time with your kids. It’s what you make of the time you spend with your children that makes it quality time.

There are many moments throughout the day that busy parents spend with their kids — standing in line, waiting for the doctor, driving the kids to school, getting ready for bed — that can easily be turned into quality time. All it takes is some imagination and creativity.

I’ve collected over 200 stimulating activities (in my new book “Quality Time Anytime”) that parents can use during daily rituals to strengthen the parent-child relationship and teach skills and values that will benefit kids long into the future. Here are a few of my favorites:

* Bath time: Give your child a toy boat to float in the bath tub and ask her to guess how many pennies (or paper clips) she has to put in the boat to sink it. Then, ask her to test her guess.

* Bedtime: Read a story to your child, and have her try to guess the ending before you finish the book to build creativity and imagination.

* Car time: Play rhyming games, make up rap songs, and play the alphabet game, by spotting letters A through Z on passing signs.

* Dinner-making time: As you prepare dinner in the evening, let your child help you cook or create a kitchen concoction while you cook. For example, fill a bowl with soapy water and let her beat with an eggbeater. Then add food coloring and have her continue to beat. See what happens! Meal time: While the family is gathered, play word games, such as I’m thinking of a word in the kitchen that begins with “J,” or tell jokes and share funny stories to emphasize the importance of family “togetherness.”

* Shopping time: Have your child play “find the food” to become more aware of what the family eats or “check the change” to become more aware of how much things cost.

All things considered, it just takes a little imagination plus love for busy, working parents to create activities that will help them raise happy, confident responsible children. By making anytime quality time, children will learn fundamental skills that will serve them well for a lifetime.

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How to make Finger Paint for Kids

How to make Finger Paint for Kids
Article by Creative Kids at home

Make your own finger paint!  Finger painting is lots of fun for kids.  They love the ooey-gooey feels as the paint oozes through their fingers.
Be sure to have lots of heavy paper on hand for painting.  These paint tend to be too wet for newsprint or regular paper.

Original Fingerpaint
Ingredientsfinger paint hand print from child craft
1/2 cup cornstarch
3 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups cold water
food coloring

Directions

In a medium pan, mix all the ingredients together to make the finger paint. Cook over low heat 10 to 15 minutes. Keep stirring the finger paint mixture until it is smooth and thick. After the finger paint has thickened take the pan off the stove and let the mixture cool.

After cooling, divide the finger paint into storage containers depending on how many colors you would like. Add a few drops of food coloring to each container. Stir the coloring in to the paint to determine the shade of color. You’re ready to finger paint! Cover tightly when storing.

Cornstarch Fingerpaint
Ingredients
3 cups water
1 cup cornstarch
food coloring

Directions
In a medium saucepan, bring water to a boil.  Dissolve cornstarch in a separate bowl with water.   Remove boiling water from heat and add cornstarch mixture.  Return to heat, stirring constantly.  Boil until the mixture is clear and thick (about 1 minute).  Remove from heat.

As the mixture is cooling, divide into separate bowls and add food coloring.  Let the children carefully mix in the coloring.

Hints:

1. Add 1 tbsp of glycerin to make the mixture shiny.  You can find glycerin in most drugstores or pharmacies.

Easy Fingerpaint
Ingredients
2 cups white flour
2 cups cold water
food coloring

Directions
Put water into a large bowl.  Slowly add the flour, while the children are stirring.  Once it’s all mixed together, divide into smaller bowls and add food coloring.
Note for Parents:

Every parent must use their own judgment in choosing which activities are safe for their own children.  While Creative Kids at Home makes every effort to provide activity ideas that are safe and fun for children it is your responsibility to choose the activities that are safe in your own home.

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