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Kid-Friendly Ideas for Giving Back to the Community

Kid-Friendly Ideas for Giving Back to the Community

1. Find a “Giving Tree”

Throughout the holiday season, there might be “giving trees” or “wish trees” in your town building or the local mall, and they’ll be filled with tags that show children’s names and their holiday wish lists. Scout out these places or contact your local Salvation Army to learn where you can find one of these trees, and then head out with your child. Have him pick a name from the tree and shop together for the child’s wish list.

2. Go Through Toys and Clothes

Why not do your spring cleaning a bit early this year? It can be hard for children to part with toys and clothes that they’ve been using and wearing for a while…so be sure to set the activity up and discuss it beforehand. Talk with your child about less fortunate kids — some may not have toys to play with…and some probably don’t have warm clothes for the winter. Pull out some toys that your child hasn’t played with in a while and clothes that may not fit anymore. Together, choose a few items to donate to children who can use and benefit from them. Then, pack everything up, go find a clothing drop-off site, and let your child do the donating!

3. Make Cards

Does your child love to draw, decorate, or color pictures? Set aside some time to make holiday cards for children in the hospital, troops overseas, people in assisted living communities or nursing homes, and anyone else who could use an extra dose of happiness this time of the year. Then, have your child help you send them out or drop them off.

4. Donate Food

When you and your child think of the holidays, you likely think of your favorite foods that go along with them. Talk with your child about the importance of participating in a food drive for those less fortunate so that they can experience the delicious tastes of the season, too. Take a trip to the store to buy food to donate…and make it fun! If they have child-sized shopping carts, encourage your child to take the reins. Ask your child to pick a favorite holiday food to donate so that others can eat it, too, and work together to find it in the store — if it’s stuffing, grab some boxes of that; if it’s pumpkin pie, grab some cans of the filling. Once you make your purchases, have your child drop everything in the bin.

5. Deliver Goodies to Local Organizations

Whether you and your child love to bake holiday cookies or whip up endless amounts of snack mix, make extra. Decorate bags with your child, stuff them full of treats, and go around and pass them out to employees at the police and fire stations, hospital, and other local organizations that serve the community.

6. Work with Animal Shelters

Animals deserve the best, too. Contact a shelter nearby to see what they need — dog food, cat litter, bowls, etc. — and go to the pet store with your child to pick everything out. Or, call ahead to ask if you’ll be able to walk around and pass treats out to the animals. Either way, when you go to the shelter, do a lap around the kennels with your child and give the dogs and cats some love.

7. Create a Kindness Tree

Throughout the season (and even year round!), keep track of everything you and your child have done to help others by creating a kindness tree. Make a tree trunk out of cardboard or paper and cut out leaves from colored construction paper. Hang the tree trunk on the wall of the kitchen or the door to your child’s room and, on each leaf, jot down an act of kindness or activity your child does to help others. This is a great time to reflect on giving back and to talk about how it makes your child feel. Have your child hang each leaf up…and watch the tree grow.

Reference: Jeannie Krill of Bright Horizon

The 9 Best Indoor and Outdoor Summer Activities for Kids

The 9 Best Indoor and Outdoor Summer Activities for Kids

Summer is the time when kids build memories. And kids will look back at vacations, day trips, picnics and other outings with nostalgia. But that's not all they'll remember. They'll remember the bad (e.g., being bored at home, fights with siblings). And so as parents we want to help them make every day in summer something they'll want to remember.

And while these everyday summer activities may not necessarily inspire idyllic childhood memories of summer, they will happily fill those long summer days spent at home. Work-at-home parents, in particular, need ideas for enjoyable summer activities that school-age kids can do on their own.

Of course, parents also will want to add in more special activities, like vacations, summer camp or these free summer fun ideas to build those fond memories.

When you're working at home, playing outside is probably not the first activity that comes to mind. Supervising outdoor play can take time out of your workday. But kids that are cooped up inside all day only get rowdier and rowdier. Spending a little outdoor time with them can allow them to blow off some steam and nap later. When they are a little older and nap time is a thing of the past, you may be able to watch from a window while they play outside. So, work some of these 5 outdoor activities for kids into your routine.

Art, much like getting outside, can feel counterproductive to getting things done. It's messy and can use supervision. Setting up an art space — with paper, coloring books, glue, scissors, colored pencils, and crayons are all readily available — will encourage kids to make art part of their daily routine, while making it easier to clean up. But even if you have an art space, you might have to provide some inspiration in the way of ideas and easy summer craft projects.

Typically, kids get new toys during the holiday season, right in the middle of the school year when they often don't have time to play with them. By the time summer rolls around, they are forgotten or, worse, broken. But if you choose your children's toys wisely this does not have to be the case. Toys can provide lasting enjoyment all summer.

Good old-fashioned board games and cards can keep kids busy while you work. Of course, for some games, you'll need to have more than one kid in the house to play. However, there are some games for one and brainteaser games that can keep one child occupied this summer, and you'd be amazed at how many things a kid can do with a deck of cards. If your kids are old enough to play outside unattended, don't overlook outdoor fun like shooting a game of HORSE at the driveway basketball hoop or sending them out to play tag.

Reading for enjoyment every day is a great habit to teach your kids. And summer — without the fatigue of homework and school activities — is the time to instill the reading bug. Summer reading is an activity that's good for just one kid.

Join the local library summer reading club. Try wordless books for new or struggling readers. Buy comics or magazines for your kids. Setting aside a certain time every day for reading helps get kids in the habit. Join a summer reading program or start your own.

Audiobooks and podcasts are for more than just summer car trips. Listening to audiobooks promotes a love of literature while keeping kids engaged for hours, and it's easier for some kids than reading a book.

Today it is easier than ever to download books to a phone, tablet or computer, but you can still do it the old-fashioned way and bring CDs home from the library. And don't forget about podcasts, which are even easier to access than audiobooks.

Spending 15 minutes a day writing (or drawing) in a journal will give your child a head start on the old back-to-school question: What did you do on your summer vacation? Writing in a journal will not keep a child occupied for long periods while you work, but it's a good way to start the day or transition from one activity to another.

All summer long, have a jigsaw puzzle going somewhere in the house. And keep puzzle books handy. Puzzles keep kids mentally active. Some kids are more into puzzles than others. Don't expect them to spend hours working on puzzles in a day. Doing only a little bit of a large puzzle each day or completing a 100-puzzle piece puzzle all at once keeps kids from getting bored with it.

Of course, there are puzzle apps and computer games as well, but, as with all electronics, parents need to keep an eye on the clock to be sure kids don't get too much screen time.

If your child's school gives summer homework or summer reading, have your child work on it a little each day or each week. You'll both be happy it's finished at the end of summer when you're rushing around getting ready for back to school. Keep an eye on your child's progress, but don't give too much homework help. Working on it a little each day teaches your child how to manage long-term projects. The homework becomes an everyday summer activity rather than a monumental end-of-summer task. The purpose of summer homework is to keep kids' skills sharp, so waiting until the end of summer may mean re-learning forgotten skills. Make a plan for summer homework early in the summer, and stick to it.

References: Laureen Miles Brunelli and Sean Blackburn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Teaching Kids to Eat Healthy

Teaching Kids to Eat Healthy

Teaching kids to eat well can be tricky. You don’t want to give them more facts than they can grasp or turn every meal into a lecture. But wait too long and they could pick up unhealthy habits in the meantime.

“Kids need to know that every food they put into their bodies affects them,” says Danelle Fisher, MD, chair of pediatrics at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, CA.

Parents can get that message across by talking with kids about the food they put in their bodies, why it matters, and how they can learn to make the healthiest choices.

Make sure healthy foods are the default setting for your family’s meals, and get everyone involved in choosing some nutritious, tasty options. Take kids with you to the grocery store or farmers market. Younger kids can pick out fresh fruits and veggies. Older kids can take on larger roles like choosing recipes and making a shopping list.

Explain that they should fill half their plate with fruits and veggies that have nutrients that will help their bodies grow. The other half should be whole grains and lean protein that gives them energy to run, dance, and play. When you’re cooking or grocery shopping, show them different examples of these key food groups.

Kids should learn that all foods have a place in their diet. Label foods as “go,” “slow,” or “whoa.” Kids can “green light” foods like whole grains and skim milk they should have every day and “slow down” with less healthy foods like waffles. Foods with the least nutrition, such as french fries, don’t need to be off-limits, but kids should stop and think twice before they eat them often.

It’s not just what kids eat that matters, but how much. Even very young kids can learn that the amount of rice or pasta they eat should match the size of their fist. Protein should be palm-sized, and fats like butter or mayonnaise about the tip of their thumb. When you buy packaged foods, have kids help you find the serving size. Then talk about why sticking to it is a good idea.

Explain to older kids that while candy and cookies taste good, sugar can do their body more harm than good. (You can tell younger kids that too many sweets will make them feel “yucky.”) Then, offer fresh fruit for desserts and limit treats to two or three times a week to keep cravings for sweets in check.

We’re born knowing to eat when we’re hungry and stop when we’re full. But that’s easy to ignore when you’re surrounded by snacks and giant portions. To help kids listen to their bodies, don’t push them to have “one more bite” or clean their plate.  Turn off screens during meals, too. They distract kids from paying attention to how much they’re eating and when they’ve had enough.

If you push your kids to eat broccoli but never touch it yourself, you might need to take a closer look at your diet. Every bite you take matters. “Role modeling is one of the best ways to get your children onboard with healthier eating,” says Stephanie Middleberg, a registered dietitian in New York City.

Kids who eat meals with their family are more likely to eat healthy fruits, veggies, and whole grains. (They’re also less apt to snack on junk food.) You don’t need to lecture about nutrition while you eat. Make meals together fun. Turn on some music, choose silly games to play, or let kids invite a friend.

If you think your child needs to lose or gain weight, don’t put them on a diet. Instead, speak to his doctor. “Your pediatrician can help you discuss basic food groups, meal time behaviours, food portions, and weight,” Fisher says.

Reference: Stephanie Booth by GrowWebMD