Preparing for Parent-Teacher Conferences

Parent-teacher conferences can be a little daunting, especially if it’s your first time going to one.  Going into a meeting not knowing what to expect is a tough task for some, but in all reality, these conferences are meant to give you feedback on how your child is doing in the class.  And if you’re a little nervous going into it, just remember that the teacher is probably a little nervous too.  Here are a few tips to help you prepare and get the most out of your parent-teacher conference.

 

1)  Sign-up for Parent-Teacher Conferences & show up on time

Parent-teacher conferences are a great way to get some insight into your child’s development, so don’t skip them.  Make sure you get all the time allotted to you by being on time (aka just a little early).  Don’t waste the teacher’s or your time by being late. When I was a teacher, I would set a timer so that I was sure to give each parent the same amount of time.  It was frustrating when some were late, and then wanted more time.  A teacher has 20-30 conferences to get through, be respectful of them and the other parents waiting for their conference.

 

2)  Enter Parent-Teacher Conferences with an open mind

Let’s be real; you know your kid’s not perfect, and you know he behaves differently around you than he does with others.  Listen to what the teacher has to say without being defensive; she is a professional telling you what she sees on a daily basis.  Ask what you can do at home to help keep your child’s behavior more consistent between school and home.

 

3)  Ask to see examples of your child’s work

Most likely the teacher will already have some work examples on hand, but if she doesn’t, don’t hesitate to ask to see them.  It is important for you to get a visual understanding of how your child is doing. And as parents, we know we can’t always rely on things that were sent home to actually make it home.  So, work examples that the teacher has are the perfect way to see your child’s academic abilities.

 

4)  Ask about your child’s social-life in the classroom

Who are her friends?  Does she share/work well with others?  Is she nice to others?  Are others nice to her?  What school activity does she seem to enjoy the most?  You may or may not know the answers to some of these questions from what your child tells you, but it is always nice to get an “outsider’s” perspective on what’s going on.

 

5)  Ask what you can do to help support your child’s growth and education

Teachers do their best to mold the minds of a classroom full of children each year, but at the end of the day you are the parent and need to take responsibility for your child’s growth and education.  What social skills do you and your child need to work on?  Which academic skills do you need to practice with your child?  Are there more/better ways your can be incorporating learning into your child’s everyday life?  You and your child’s teacher are on the same team, so work together!

 

6)  Write things down

Before you go into your parent-teacher conference, write down all the questions you’d like to ask so you don’t forget.  Take notes while the teacher speaks, especially noting helpful tips or more questions that you might think of.  Also write down the answers to your questions so you can remember everything when you get home.  This also is very helpful if you need to relay the message of the conference to a parent who couldn’t be there.

 

7)  Talk to your child when you get home

After your parent-teacher conference, have a parent-child conference.  Talk about how the meeting went.  Talk about the good, the bad, and they ways you plan to help your child improve and continue to succeed.  Have your child weigh in on what he thinks he’s excelling in, what he needs to work on, and what steps he can take to start improving.  This parent-child conference will send the message to your child that you and his teacher are on the same page, and that you are there and willing to support your child in school and in life.

4 Types of Bullying and How to Help

Bullying is a hot topic these days, and for good reason.  It has come a long way from calling a kid names or shoving in the hallway at school; bullying has become more aggressive, more violent, and more relentless than ever.  Whether your child is being bullied, a bystander of a bully situation, or even the bully, you should have a serious talk with your child about the topic. Here are 4 types of bullying you shouldn’t forget to talk about.

 

Physical Bullying

This is probably the most obvious form of bullying, the physical overpowering of one person over another.  It may be shoving, flicking, throwing things, tripping, knocking things out of another person’s hands, punching, kicking, etc. Regardless of what is actually happening, if the person on the receiving end of it isn’t amused, asks the other person to stop, is being physically or emotionally hurt by it, it is bullying and needs to stop.

Lately the news has had more and more stories of physical bullying being taken to the extremes with victims ending up in hospitals or even the morgue.  Bottom line is that your child needs to know that it is completely unacceptable to physically bully or abuse another person in any way, shape or form.

 

Verbal

Again, this form of bullying is fairly easy to spot, most of the time.  However, it too has become a lot more aggressive and hurtful.  Kids have come a long way from calling each other names like “four-eyes,” or “dork”. Today’s kids are using much more sinister vocabulary.  Racial, ethnic, religious, homophobic, and sexual slurs are common staples of verbal bullying these days.  And you would think that curse words would have lost some of their “punch” as often as they are used.  No matter what the old adage says, words do hurt.  And can they be very damaging to a young person’s self-esteem and self-worth.

When damaging words are thrown at you day in and day out, and people casually use your person, gender, religion or race in jokes that they laugh at all the time, you may begin to question who you are and if those words really define you.  I mentioned that verbal bullying is fairly easy to spot most of the time, however sometimes it’s not.

Some people are so passive in their verbal bullying that it is hard to even know that it is happening unless you are the one who is left feeling bad after it has been said.  Girls are the worst at this form, and there is even a term for it, “Frienamies,” friends who are really your enemies.  Frienamies will make you feel comfortable so you open up to them, and then immediately betray you and spread your secrets around.  Frienamies are experts at the backhanded compliments such as, “Oh! The pattern on your shirt is really cute! It totally draws attention away from your double chin.”  Sneaky, yet still hurtful.

Cyber Bullying

This is one of the hardest forms of bullying for many kids. Bullying used to happen at school, or to and from school, and once the kid reached home, they were safe. Not anymore.  With everyone connected 24/7 with various social media outlets, kids can torture one another from anywhere, at any time, with an instant audience of however many 100’s of followers they have.

Digital photos can be altered into cruel memes and shared with 1,000’s instantly.  And with the anonymity of an online profile a bully can easily hide from the consequences of his or her actions.  Fake profiles can be made to trick and toy with people’s emotions. This is called “Catfishing”.  Some victims of cyber bullying have actually killed themselves because they feel that there is no other way to escape the emotional terrors and cruel comments from their peers.

One way to monitor your children is to be aware of the aps they have on their phones.  Know all of their passwords to social media accounts so you can check in on them.  Be friends or followers of their social media accounts so they know that you will see what they are posting.  Also, it is a good idea to have a rule about using the internet behind closed doors. Make sure that all computers, phones, and tablets that have access to the internet are always kept in very social areas of the house.

 

Ignoring/Bystander Bullying

This form of bullying may be the hardest to identify or label.  Sometimes kids think that just because they are not actively being mean that they are not being a bully. However, ignoring someone’s existence  just because they are different is just as bad.

Let’s say a new kids joins the class.  At lunch she walks up to a table of girls, they see her, but no one acknowledges her, no one moves over to make room for her.  How does she feel?  What message does that send?

Ignoring is bullying.  In the same sense, being a bystander to bullying and doing nothing is also a form of bullying.  By allowing it to happen, you are just as much to blame as the person doing the actual bully.  Talk to your child about compassion, respect and empathy.  Teach them that every single person deserves to be seen, to be heard, and to have a happy existence.  Teach them that not everyone is strong enough or confident enough to stand up for themselves.  If they see something wrong to step in and help that person.

How to Help

What help looks like may vary in different situations. In a verbal altercation, helping might be speaking up and telling the bully to stop. During a physical altercation, it may be pulling the bully off, or getting a person of authority to intervene.  Online in a cyber situation help might look like a positive post of support, or a formal report to the website officials. And in an ignoring type of situation, it can be as simple as scooting over to make room at the lunch table.

Why Good ECE Schools Don’t Use Worksheets

Worksheets are designed to give teachers a clear cut way to determine their students comprehension of the material that has been taught.  Questions are asked, the correct answers are given, and the teacher knows the student understands the material.  Directions are given, directions are followed, and the teacher can assess the student’s performance.  It’s all very concrete, and seems to be a valid way for teachers to assess their students. But good ECE schools hardly use them.

But why don’t good early childhood education (ECE) schools use worksheets?  Worksheets are fine assessments for older students, but there are several problems with introducing worksheets in an ECE classroom simply because they are not developmentally appropriate.

Good ECE Schools Understand Age Appropriate Activities

First and foremost, worksheets are mundane activities.  Completing a worksheet mostly consists of sitting at the table or desk, using a pencil to follow the directions, with no interaction with peers.  This doesn’t work for preschoolers.  If you have ever been around a preschooler you know that it is next to impossible to get them to sit down and complete a task without talking.

Kids of this age need to be social, they need to move and manipulate objects and interact with others.  To expect them to sit quietly and work is like expecting your dog to pick up his own waste; it’s simply expecting more than they are physically capable of.  In addition to worksheets being a challenge for a child’s gross motor control, they are also challenging for a child’s fine motor skills.

Young children need lots of practice with fat crayons, paint brushes and markers before they are physically able to hold a pencil correctly and make controlled markings.  If teachers, or parents, don’t understand that, then they may be too critical of a child’s attempt at writing.  This could ultimately dampen the child’s enthusiasm.  Teachers and parents should be encouraging children to succeed by setting appropriate goals for them.  However, worksheets just don’t support that.

Worksheets Can Be Cognitively Stifling

Worksheets can also be cognitively stifling for young minds.  Questions on worksheets typically will have just one correct answer; match the pictures with the letters they start with.  Directions on worksheets typically have only one way to complete the task; connect the dots to make the shape.  With worksheets, there is no room for abstract or critical thinking, or problem solving.

Kids are either right or wrong when it comes to worksheets.  If they’re right, it may have just been a lucky guess rather than a sign of understanding.  If they’re wrong, there is no way to learn from their mistakes.  So if worksheets are so inappropriate to use in ECE schools, then how do teachers assess their students’ knowledge and growth?

Good ECE Schools Use Play-Based Curriculims

Good ECE schools will have a play-based curriculum in place.  Play-based curriculums allow children to learn abstract and critical thinking skills though physical manipulation of real objects.  An example of this would be stringing beads to learn about patterns.  Play-based curriculums also allow for ample interaction between classmates. This, in turn, leads to ample opportunities for working on self-control and problem solving.

But how can the teachers assess their students of they are just playing?  Teachers who use play-based curriculums aren’t just sitting at their desks while the kids run amuck.  These teachers engage with the children, “play” with them, and guide them through lessons.  While the teachers are involved with the students, they observe, take notes, or mark a checklist of skills mastered and of those needing more development.

Concrete evidence can be found in work samples, such as a Science journal where children can draw their experiment observations.  Many ECE schools will have portfolios for each child that contains samples of their work throughout the year so parents, and teachers, can actually see the growth and progress the children have made.  In addition to portfolios, daily pictures and weekly, or monthly, newsletters are great ways to show parents what is being accomplished in the classroom, without sending home piles of completed worksheets.

The Reasons Behind Toddler Biting

Do you remember the biting incident in the 2014 World Cup? In short, Uruguay’s Luis Suárez bit another player on the shoulder during a game.  This alone is deplorable, but what is even more astonishing is the fact that this is the third time Suárez had bitten another player.  Some of you may be outraged, wondering how a grown man could continually behave so poorly.  But others may be fearful, worrying if this is the future of their little biting toddler.  I assure you, it doesn’t have to be.

Biting is Common in Toddlers

Biting is a common, and normal, behavior for toddlers, and they usually grow out of it by the time they are three.  However, you can’t just sit around and wait around for your child to grow out of it; you must teach your child that biting is an unacceptable behavior.  Unfortunately, toddlers won’t magically stop biting just because you tell them once; it is going to take some patience, some time, and some consistency to alter their biting behavior.  If you are bitten by your toddler, you must be calm but stern; no yelling.  Say, “Ouch!  That hurts me!  NO BITING!”  Make your message short and sweet; if you’re too wordy, your message will fly right over your toddler’s head.  If you are consistent, she will eventually get the message that biting is not acceptable.  By why do toddlers bite in the first place?

Controling Emotions is a Big Challenge

As adults, most of us are pretty in control of our emotions and actions.  However, toddlers are just beginning to really feel complex emotions, and they are definitely not in control of them.  If a toddler feels threatened, angry, frustrated, or jealous his first reaction may be to scream, hit, kick, cry or even bite.  You have to help your toddler learn self-control when facing these emotions.  Try coaching him through the situation with something like this: “If you feel like you’re going to bite, take a deep breath and slowly count to three.  Then use your words to tell me what is wrong.”  Give your toddler some key phrases he can use to help him convey his emotions.  Phrases like: “I don’t like that,” “I need space,” “I was playing with that,” or “Can I have a turn,” are a good place to start.  If you notice your toddler consistently biting in particular situations, try to intervene with emotional coaching before it escalates to biting.

Biting is No Laughing Matter

But what if your toddler bites you and then laughs at your pain?  Don’t worry, she’s not evil; she has just learned that biting is a funny game.  One time she bit you, or someone else, and the reaction was hysterical, and she wants to get that reaction again.  Did you make a funny face?  Did you say silly things while trying to stop yourself from cursing?  Or did you eventually laugh because her sweet giggles made you forget that she just bit you?  Well, I hate to say it, but any of those things could be considered positive reinforcement for biting.  Toddlers love to be silly and see you be silly, so if they know that they can get you to act silly by biting you, they will keep biting.  But if your reaction is boring, the biting will eventually stop.  Just try to remember to be calm, stern, and consistent.  And I think it goes without saying, but don’t play any pretend biting games (i.e. silly monster eats the little girl’s arm) if you have a biter because toddlers don’t know how to pretend bite.

It Could Be a Physical Reaction

So we have toddlers who bite because they are reacting to emotions, or because they think it’s funny, but there are also those who seem to bite for no reason.  These unpredictable biters may be teething and need to soothe their little gums, or they may just have an oral fixation.  This kind of biter is a bit trickier to deal with because the biting is filling a physical need rather than an emotional reaction.  But your response should still be calm, stern, and consistent.  Try to avoid the biting by using a pacifier strap to attach a teething ring to your toddler so he has a quick, on-hand (no pun intended) option for something to bite if he needs.  You can also try giving your toddler some crunchy snacks to chomp into.  Carrots, celery sticks, apple slices, or even frozen banana slices are perfect for crunching and soothing little gums.

 

If you have little biters at home, I’m sure you don’t want them to be all grown up, on a soccer field, in a boxing ring, or in a business meeting and biting someone because they are frustrated.  You can stop the bad behavior before they take it with them into adulthood.  Just remember that you are the one who needs to teach your toddler that biting is an unacceptable behavior.  Try to identify why your child is biting, give him the tools to help him avoid biting, and when he does bite, be calm, be stern, and be consistent.

 

Reading Support for Kids 3+

By the time your child is three to five years old, you have probably taught them, or are beginning to teach them,  the letters of the alphabet, how to sing their ABC’s, and to recognize the letters of their names.  You’re doing good, and you feel your child is as “Reading Ready” as he can be when he starts school.  Because somewhere in this age range, children do start entering school, and their formal reading education will begin.  However, this does not mean that it is all up to the teacher now.

If you want your child to fully grasp, and eventually master the skills needed to read, then you must be actively involved in the process as well.  Here are five ways you can be involved and supportive of your child’s reading education.

1. Expose your child to reading in the world around them.

Reading is literally everywhere around us, so there is no need to set aside hours from your busy schedule to go over flash cards with your child.  Just open his eyes to all the letters and words around him.  While driving you can point our letters and words on signs you pass.  “S-T-O-P spells STOP,” and “Look, Billy, Burger King starts with the letter B just like your name.”  Simple things like that can help your child recognize and learn letters as well as whole words, and remembering what words look like is an important first step in learning to read.

2. Expose your child to reading at home.

Books are the obvious choice for this, but think outside the box as well here.  Order your child a subscription to a children’s magazine; kids love getting mail, and it will give them something new to read every month.  Have your child help you write the grocery list or a letter to a friend.  When coloring at home, you can point out the words of the colors on the sides of the crayons or markers.  And if you really want to go for the gold, you can make labels for everything in your house so your child can easily see that he is sitting in his CHAIR at the TABLE.

3. Use educational television shows, videos, or computer games to support what your child is learning.

These can help your child learn to read as well as be fun for him, but you need to be involved too.  If your child is watching Sesame Street or Super Why, sit with him and talk about what the program is trying to teach.  Just make sure to limit the screen time to 1 to 2 hours per day, and that the programs are educational and non-violent.

4. Read aloud with your child.

This is one of the best ways you can help your child learn to read.  When reading aloud to your child, remember to run your finger under the words you are reading so your child can begin to understand the direction of text.  Also, make sure to talk about the pictures and how they relate to the story.  If your child asks questions, stop reading and answer them, as it may lead to a better understanding of what is happening in the story.  And for goodness sake, use silly voices for the characters because the more fun you have reading, the more fun your child will have.  Even after your child learns to read, keep reading to him.  Children can listen to and understand more difficult stories than they can read.

5. Listen to your child read aloud.

This can build up your child’s confidence in his ability and help make reading more enjoyable.  If your child asks for your help with a word, give it to him right away so that the meaning of the story is not lost.  Don’t force him to sound it out, but also don’t stop him from sounding a word out if he’s doing it on his own.  Also, make sure that you are not over correcting your child’s reading.

If he makes an equal substitution for words within a story, then let it slide.  For example, if your child says “dog” when the word was “pup,” it’s fine; your child still understands the context of the story.  However, if a word that doesn’t make sense is used, such as “road” for “read,” then just ask your child to read the sentence again because you didn’t understand what was read.  Keep an eye on your child’s frustration levels when he is reading.  Pushing a child beyond his limits when trying to read can make it difficult and ultimately less fun.

 

These are just five ways to be involved in your child’s reading education, but they are five good ways.  Just remember that it doesn’t matter what you do, it just matters that you are there to do it.  But however you are involved, keep in mind that the most important thing you can do is give your child tons of praise.  Encouraging comments and support from a parent is infinitely valuable to a child and his confidence.  And when your child is confident, he will enjoy reading and learning even more.

Becoming Reading Ready: 6 Steps to Develop a Strong Early Reading Foundation in Newborns to Three Year Olds

On average, children learn to read between the ages of five and seven years old.  However, reading doesn’t just start at some magical age; as a parent, you need to make sure that you are helping your child to become “reading ready.”  Below are six ways to encourage and develop your child’s love of, and foundation for, reading, starting right from birth.

Reading Ready from Birth to 1 Year Old:

1)  Talk, sing, recite rhymes and do finger plays with your baby.  By just listening to you speak, your child will learn spoken language and begin to build a strong foundation for reading.  Just remember, that as you talk and sing, make it as conversational as possible.  Look you baby in the eyes when speaking, and allow your baby to have a response time before moving on to the next idea.  Even though your baby may not exactly respond, it gives him time to process what has just happened, another good skill used when reading.

2)  Start setting aside time every day to read together.  Children as young as six months old can begin to enjoy books.  Even if they don’t follow the story just yet, they will love to hear your voice and look at pictures.  Just noticing the direction in which you turn the pages gives them clues about how to read.  Read picture books with your baby snuggled in your lap, and point out the things you see.  This helps develop word association, and puts them on the path to being reading ready.  Bedtime is an ideal time for reading together because it allows some winding down time so your baby can get ready to sleep.

3)  Allow for independent “reading” time for your baby.  Amidst the toys on the floor, provide board books and soft books for your baby as well.  Sure, the books will be chewed and banged around, but they will also be looked at.  This allows your baby to explore books in her own way and imitate how you read.

1 to 3 Years Old:

4)  Continuing to read every day is important, but at this age, allow your child to pick the books you read together.  Yes, you will probably read the same books over and over and over again, but repetition is part of learning.  When your child becomes familiar with a book, have him start finishing the sentences, or have him tell you what is going to happen next in the story.  And when reading new books, allow your child to name objects in the book, or make predictions about what will happen next based on the pictures he sees.

5)  Take trips to the library.  Kids love experiencing new things, and at the library there are literally thousands of new books to choose from.  Make it an event, don’t just go, pick out a book and leave.  Stay a while and really explore the different types of books to choose from, and maybe even stay for story time.  It is good for children to hear books read by other people as well as yourself.

6)  Continue to encourage, but not force, independent reading time.  You can do this by keeping books in her bedroom, or in a special reading nook.  Make sure there is a comfortable bed or chair next to the bookshelf so she can cuddle up with a book, and that there is good light or a reading lamp.  I always like the idea of reading buddies as well.  Reading buddies can be stuffed animals that the child can snuggle with and read to.  I enjoy b

Ready to Learn

When kids head off to school, they should be ready to learn.  Teachers spend hours of their own time developing curriculum, preparing lesson plans, and gathering materials.  Between the first and last bell of the day, there is limited time.  Seven hours might seem like a long day, but to get everything in is challenging.

This is why kids need to be ready to learn when they get to school.  When the students are ready, the teacher can move through lessons at a better pace with less disruption.  Here are 5 ways you can help make your child ready to learn at school.

1. Teach your kids manners and respect.

Teachers deal with 20-30 kids in a classroom, and it is hard. However, it is harder to teach Math or Reading if they also have to be teaching manners and respect.  Sure, teachers will reinforce these lessons, but they should be taught and practiced at home on a regular basis.  If your child is disrespectful to the teacher or to the classmates, it takes away time for the academic lesson being taught.  This has a negative effect on the teacher, as well as the rest of the class.  It is the parent’s job to raise their children to be decent and functional human beings; it is the teacher’s job to raise their students’ academic abilities.

2. Make sure your child does their homework.

If a teacher assigns homework, it is for a reason. Just as teachers will reiterate lessons of manners and respect taught in the home, homework is a way for parents to reiterate academic lessons taught at school.  Homework is like extra practice to ensure kids fully grasp the concept of the lesson.  Work done at home, without the guidance of the teacher can be a good indicator of how well students understand certain concepts.  This information helps the teacher to adjust lesson plans according to how well the class is understanding the material.  You don’t need to hover while your kids do their homework, just make sure they do it.  And it never hurts to give it a quick look-over after they have finished to make sure it was done correctly.

3. Make sure your child gets a good night’s sleep.

Not enough sleep can cause fatigue. Fatigue can cause a slowing down of brain functions, thought processes and motor skills. It can even make your child emotionally unstable, quick to get anygy, or cry. Even though kids seem like they have the energy to stay up all hours of the night, they actually need more than a solid 8 hours every night.  School age kids need roughly 10 hours of sleep. A good night’s sleep will help their minds to be attentive and receptive during school.

4. Feed your child a good breakfast.

Bottom line is if your child is distracted by how hungry they are, they will be less functional in school. If your child wakes up super early to get on the bus, make sure they eat a good, plentiful breakfast before they get on.  If your child likes to sleep in, make sure they wake in time to eat.  If you are unable to have breakfast at home, many schools have a breakfast program, so make sure they get to school on time for that.  Food is fuel for the mind and body.  If your kids don’t fuel up, they won’t be able to function properly.

5. Understand that you and your child’s teacher are a team.

Parents and teachers need to work together to further a child’s emotional, social and academic development. When you support the teacher, and they support you, your child views each in an equal manner.  It is when kids get home, and their parents allow them to blow off school work, allow them to skip school, or even talk bad about a teacher that kids view their teachers as inferior.  This can lead to disrespect and disruption in the classroom.  Just as both parents need to be on the same team, so do parents and teachers.  Work together with respect and understanding.  Demonstrate through your actions that your child’s teacher is a person of authority, and deserves respect.  I know this is similar to the first point, but it is a big one.  Teachers cannot do their job well if they are constantly getting pushback from parents and students.

Lazy Days of Summer

I’m having a lazy summer, and I like it.  No, I love it.  My boys are in a sweet age of life where they can be independent, but their lives don’t revolve around the world outside our house.  I even pulled them out of Karate for the summer. I did this partly because we were going to miss a bunch because of vacation, but also because I didn’t want to be somewhere for 2 hours twice a week. In the mornings they can make their own breakfasts, so I’ve been able to sleep in a bit. Then they go off and play either in the basement or outside until lunch.  So I’ve been able to catch up on reading and writing.  But most days, I’ve just been a little lazy.  Why? Because I can right now.

I know what’s coming.  School is right around the corner, and things will get busy again.  The calendar will fill up with back to school nights, school activities x2 since my youngest is starting Kindergarten, and after school activities.  Apparently 3rd grade is the year that they open up all the after school clubs.  Art club, Spanish club, Running club, etc., and I’m sure my kid will want to try them all!   And no one can predict what summers of the future hold.  Maybe next summer will be like this one, but maybe my kids will want to join a summer sport with their friends… All I know it that now I have time to do nothing, and it is coming to an end shortly.

When the school year starts, I will once again be watching my 2 year old niece (my sister is a teacher), but will also take on my 7 month old nephew (my SIL is a teacher too).  Then, eventually a second brand new niece will be added after the holidays!! I’m so excited about getting to watch and spend time with them, but I know I will be busy.  I’m already thinking ahead as to how I will meal plan the weeks for my own family, and have time to get my workouts and writing in each day.

So for now, while the summer lasts, I’ll be lazy, and I’ll enjoy it.  I’ll keep our days clear of solid plans.  I’ll let the kids decide what, if anything, we will do for the day. We can stay up late reading or having a movie night because there’s nothing to do the next day.  And so the dishes might sit in the sink for the day while I write or read instead.  Maybe I’ll vacuum, but maybe not. Laundry will get done when I hear complaints of no underwear.  But the time for being lazy won’t last long, so for now, I am just enjoying it.

Getting Your Kids to Eat

I’ve written about eating healthy foods before, and I’m sure I’ll write about it again in the future.  Over processed foods are everywhere, and they are heavily advertised to appeal to our kids.  Sure, the processed foods are quick and easy, and they can save you in a pinch.  However, they are terrible for you and your kids!  The problem that we parents have is that when we do cook a healthy meal, our kids usually turn their noses up at it.  So how do you we get your kids to eat real, healthy foods?

 

A friend of mine, Melissa D. McPheeters, has written a great little guide to getting kids to eat the nutritious foods you make.  It is called Kids Eat, and it is a quick read that is full of honesty and tips that actually work!  I already incorporate most of her tips into our meal times, which is awesome!  But I also have a few more tricks/tips I’d like to add.  Here are my tips for getting your kids to eat what you make.

 

1. The No Thank You Bite

I use the crockpot a lot.  We are busy, and it is a fabulous tool that allows me to cook a nutritious meal without much effort.  However, when food comes out of a crockpot, it is all mixed together, and that can be weird looking for kids.  I always give them a serving and I make them take a “no thank you bite”.  The purpose of this is to make the kid try it, but then also give them the opportunity to tell me they don’t like it.  If they don’t like it, I don’t make them eat it anymore, but I thank them for trying.

Here’s the kicker though, many kids won’t actually taste one bite.  They swallow it so quickly that they don’t give it a real chance.  So, my rule is that you have to take as many bites as you are old before you can tell me you don’t want anymore.  So my 5yo has to take 5 bites before he can tell me no thank you, and my 8yo takes 8.

I do make an exception for foods that they clearly HATE.  For example, my 8yo cannot eat mashed potatoes. They literally make him gag when he puts them in his mouth.  But since taste buds change and develop as you grow, every once in a while I will serve them to him.  If he takes one bite and gags, I don’t make him take all 8.  On the other hand, let’s say we have broccoli, and it’s not his favorite, but he can still eat it, so I make him take all 8 bites.

 

2. Present a Diverse Plate

When serving up a meal, I don’t just put one thing on my kids’ plates.  I give them a variety of foods. There is the main meal, if that doesn’t have veggies in it I give a side of veggies, some fruit, and sometimes a starch (tortilla shells or chips with tacos, homemade fries with burgers, etc.).  So, if after they take their “no thank you bites” of their main meal, they still have several other things on their plates for them to take “no thank you bites” from, or eat completely.

By presenting them with a variety of foods to try, you can expand their pallet as well as easily tell them that THIS is what is for dinner.  Many parents will go out of their way to make another meal for their kids, but to be honest, that’s not doing them any favors.  Kids will always choose junk over nutritious foods, so put a variety of nutritious foods on their plates, and they will eat something.

 

3. Let Them Pick The Veggies

I have started a new thing with my kids.  When we go to the grocery store I let them pick out a new veggie and fruit to try.  I don’t buy a lot of it, just enough to try.  Then I find a recipe for the best way to serve it, and we have it for dinner that night.  This “game” has gotten them excited about trying new foods.  It has also introduced us to some veggies I wouldn’t have normally bought.  Some taste tests were a bust, but others have now been added to our regular grocery list.  When you get your kids involved in the decision process, they feel more in control, and are willing to try what THEY have picked.

Rain Check

Summer is here!!!  And we are all looking forward to all of the outdoor time for our kids.  However, where I live, it’s been raining for pretty much the last 3 weeks.  Rain can really put a damper on all of your summer plans.  We’ve already had to take a rain check for a few of our plans. The kids are forced to be inside with you all day, and just the thought of it give us a touch of anxiety.  Not to worry though!  I have a few ideas on how we can combat the craziness while being stuck indoors!  Here are 7 activities you won’t need a rain check for.

1. (Rain) Check in with your kids

Before you start wracking your brain about what to do, see if your kids have any ideas. Sit down with your kids and have them write down several ideas of what THEY would like to do when you have to put a rain check on the outdoor activities.  Put all the suggestions in a jar and literally save them for a rainy day!  Pull an activity out as needed, and let the fun happen.  I also do this for winter break when it is sometimes too cold to get outside.

2. Science and Crafts

Search the internet for fun crafts and Science experiments you can do with your kids at home. Science experiments offer fun and education to entertain the summer mind. You can get ahead of the plan by ordering Science boxes for all ages that will be sent to your home with all the materials needed! Craft time is a great way to get kids to express their imaginations.

3. Art

Create art!! Whether it’s sculpting with clay or playdough, coloring in a coloring book, or painting, you and your kids are sure to have a good time!! Just grab the art supplies, turn on some good music, and see where it takes you!

4. Dance

Have a dance party! Good music can always brighten a gloomy day!  Simply turn on the tunes and get moving!  If you and your kids really want to step it up, take some time to pick out specific songs for a playlist, and get creative with the choreography and costuming!

5. Cook and Bake

Get in the kitchen and cook! You’ve got to teach your kids to cook for themselves at some point, so why not on a rainy day?  Pick a recipe that they would like to try, or guide them in helping you prep and cook the dinner you planned for that evening.  The more you get your kids involved in cooking and meal prep, the more willing they will be to eat the foods you make.

6. Movies and Reading

Turn your T.V. room into a movie theater! Pull out the pillows and blankets, turn out the lights, and pop some popcorn.  Rainy days always make me want to curl up and watch a good movie, so why not make it fun!!  If you’d like to spend less time in front of a screen, use the pillows and blankets to create a comfy space to read books with your kids!!

7. GET OUT OF THE HOUSE!!

Just because it’s raining doesn’t mean you can’t leave.  There are plenty of indoor play places (Pump It Up, Sky Zone, etc.) you can take your kids to where they can expend energy.  You can also hit up a local museum (children’s museum, science, history, planetarium etc.) Explore and learn while in a new environment.  Museums and indoor entertainment venues too expensive or far away?  No problem.  Your local library is free and will most likely have some sort of story time or activity for your kids!  And worst case scenario, you and your kids just get to check out some books!  When my kids were little (5 and younger) they even enjoyed taking a trip to the local pet store just to look at all the animals.  Even a causal trip to browse around your Target, Walmart or Meijer can be enjoyable as long as you preface the trip with the fact that you are not buying anything.