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Spooky (And Delicious!) Halloween Treats To Make With Kids

In our books, any time is a good time to get in the kitchen with your kiddos and make fun, delicious treats. But this is especially true during Halloween when every little beastie wants something eerily delicious to enjoy with friends and family. Here, we offer three tasty treats to get everyone rolling up their sleeves and spending some quality family time in the kitchen – trust us, it’ll be spooktacular!

This is a kid-friendly, family project that will get everyone in the spirit. Bonus? Your little person is eating mostly banana and a bit of white chocolate — but hey, you don’t need to point out the nutritionally obvious!

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium banana
  • 1 cup white chocolate
  • 8 mini chocolate chips
  • 4 wooden popsicle sticks

Directions:

  1. Cut each banana in half (crosswise) so you have two, same sized pieces. Cut them in half again to make four.
  2. Insert one popsicle stick into each banana piece and freeze on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
  3. Once frozen, place chocolate in a heat-proof bowl and melt for 30 seconds at a time until chocolate is melted. Stir between each interval.
  4. Dip banana pieces one at a time into the chocolate, and place on your parchment paper lined baking sheet.
  5. Before the white chocolate stiffens, add two mini chocolate chips for eyes and return to freezer until ready to eat.
  6. Enjoy icy cold…as cold as the hand of a ghost reaching out for you in the dark!

This snack is practically virtuous, and a tasty way to use up those seeds from the pumpkin carving party you may have just thrown.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups fresh, pumpkin seeds with shells still on (pulp discarded)
  • 3-1/2 teaspoons of your favorite taco spice mix
  • 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325˚F and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Once washed, scatter fresh pumpkin seeds on top of a tea towel and pat dry.
  3. In a bowl, mix together taco seasoning with the brown sugar. Set aside.
  4. In a medium-sized bowl, toss pumpkin seeds with oil until coated. Sprinkle seasoning over top and toss again until coated.
  5. Spread in a single layer on lined cookie sheet and roast, stirring occasionally for 18 to 20 minutes. Check that seeds are golden.
  6. Cool completely and store in airtight container or devour all at once!

This one is for the crafty souls out there who like to get creative with their treats. Go for it and have fun making these sweet and scary goodies!

Ingredients:

  • Various colored white chocolate melts (1 cup per color)
  • Candy eyeballs in various sizes and colors
  • Candy corn to be used as teeth
  • Cooking oil (approximately 1/4 teaspoon per color)
  • One batch of rice cereal treats (21 rectangles if pre-purchased or using 6 cups of rice cereal if making from scratch

Directions:

  1. If you’re making a batch of rice cereal treats, cut them into rectangles, ideally of the same size.
  2. Melt about 1 cup of colored chocolate in a small bowl in the microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring after each interval until the chocolate is fully melted. Add a drizzle of cooking oil to each batch and stir to ensure the chocolate stays smooth.
  3. Dip each treat rectangle into the colored chocolate of your choice and set on a wax paper-lined baking sheet. Work quickly to adhere the candy eyeballs (Tip: the more, the merrier — these are “monsters” after all) before the chocolate cools and hardens. Same goes for the candy corn “teeth.”
  4. These will be completely cooled and ready for every ghoul and boy to gobble in about half an hour!
October 17, 2018
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Baby’s First Birthday: How to Throw the Best Party Ever!

You’ve made it! While it seems like just yesterday you welcomed a new life into the world, suddenly, it’s baby’s first birthday. You want to celebrate with your friends and family, and you only get one shot, so you’re feeling the pressure.

Relax, we’ve got you covered. With our first birthday ideas, you will plan a memorable and enjoyable first birthday party for your favorite one year-old.

Invitations

First step: Make a list. Who are you planning to invite? Just family? Neighbors? Baby friends from daycare? Coming up with a theme and invitations will be easier once you have a crowd-size estimate.

Decide whether online invitations or paper ones are more feasible for you. While online invitations make keeping track of RSVPs a snap, paper invitations have undeniable charm. Plus, they give you a tangible memento to share with your child as they get older.

First Birthday Party Themes

You’ll want to select a theme for your party that fits your family’s personality and tastes. Think outside of the typical restrictions, and be creative! Does your baby girl love music? Is your baby boy a fan of the beach? Use their interests as a jumping off point. For a music theme, party favors could include recordings of their favorite music. If your baby is a future beach bum born in July, send your guests home with some beach toys in a sand bucket.

First birthday party decorations don’t need to be exhausting, however. Add a few light touches, such as a photo collage of the guest of honor along with some banners and decorative food displays — it’ll be plenty.

Birthday Cake Ideas

Perhaps the most quintessential element of a first birthday party is the baby cake smash. While many parents look forward to this as a perfect photo opportunity during the first birthday party, they may find themselves disappointed if their child has other ideas.

Instead, consider scheduling a first birthday photo shoot where you can take the time to let your baby explore and smash a cake in their own time. During the first birthday party, have a cupcake ready for your baby to try or smash, but don’t feel the pressure of a perfect photo op.

Gifts

If you have any wants or needs for your baby, don’t be shy when your guests ask for gift suggestions. These are your friends and family, and they should buy items you will enjoy and use.

Documenting Your Memories

This is the only first birthday your baby will have, and you’ll want to capture every moment. But don’t miss experiencing the joy of the day because you’re stuck behind your camera. Ask a trusted friend or family member who has photography skills to document the day for you. If the budget allows, consider hiring a professional photographer to take pictures at the party.

First birthdays are wonderful milestones. Your baby is walking or getting close to being mobile, and you as parents have lived to tell the tales of sleepless nights and first teeth. Enjoy your day, because it is one worth celebrating!

October 12, 2018
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Simple Halloween Safety Tips For Parents (And Kids!)

Halloween is a fun holiday for all ages, but parents may worry about their children’s safety while celebrating. Whether you are getting your little one ready for trick-or-treating or sending your tween to their first Halloween party, we’ve got your safety concerns covered.

Costumes

No matter if your child’s Halloween costume is store-bought or homemade, make sure it is made of flame resistant material and fits well. You don’t want your child to trip and fall, causing injury and cutting their celebration short.

If the costume includes a mask, make sure they can breathe normally and see sufficiently. The weather on Halloween can vary greatly, so make sure your child is warm enough but not overheated by extra layers.

When it comes to accessories or props, avoid hard, sharp, or heavy objects. Opt instead for soft, flexible materials. Keep shoes comfortable and safe: leave the high-heeled dress up shoes in the costume bin at home.

Visibility

Trick-or-treating safely after dark means your child should have a flashlight. Additionally, use reflective tape on their costumes and treat bags so others can see them, particularly when crossing the street. And definitely remind your child not to dart out into the street even if they see older kids running back and forth across the road.

Treats

Children should be in the habit of not eating or playing with anything that their parent hasn’t checked out (especially if they have any food allergies). This includes candy as well as any toys with small pieces that might not be safe for your preschooler.

Parties

Allowing your tween to attend a Halloween party can be nerve-wracking. For your peace of mind and their own well-being, discuss your expectations and any rules beforehand, including curfew. Reassure them that you will come get them if they find themselves in any unsafe situations. Check with the host of the party to make sure that there will be proper adult supervision, and make sure that the environment of the party is safe. Your child may bristle at your concerns, so talk them through together as a team.

Halloween means candy, costumes, and a good time to be had by all. By taking a few preparatory steps, you can rest easy celebrating with your children.

Have a safe Halloween!

October 10, 2018
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Cute (And Clever!)  DIY Halloween Costumes To Create For Your Kids

Many stores offer elaborate, pre-made Halloween costumes, but making your own costume encourages creativity and provides a fun activity for parents and children alike. Why not skip the fancy store-bought costume this year and try one of these DIY Halloween costumes instead?

Favorite Book Characters

Teachers will love to see your child dressed as their favorite character from a book. Challenge your child to find an outfit in their wardrobe that their character might wear. For Fern Arable from Charlotte’s Web, a pair of overalls and a plaid shirt would be a good start. Accessorize with a stuffed spider or pig and you have an easy DIY costume. Book characters also make great family costumes. For example, three children could be characters from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

Everyday Costumes

Creating DIY baby and toddler costumes can be a fun activity for parents and any older children. Grab the onesies, blankets, hats, and headbands, and see what you can create with them. Add some black spots to a plain white onesie with fabric paint or felt and you have a baby cow. Incorporate a stroller or a baby carrier for a host of creative costumes such as an astronaut in their spaceship, or a spider on a web.

A unicorn DIY costume made of pastel clothing adorned with unicorns is a great way to create an adorable costume for a little girl. And a bonus? In using real clothing, you can continue to use the costume components long after the jack-o’-lanterns get put away!

For boys, a bit of face paint, black gloves, blue pants, and a Spiderman sweatshirt will transform your trick-or-treater into the superhero web shooter, and he’ll love getting to be Spiderman for more than just one evening.

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Build-a-Box Costumes

With a basic rectangular structure and some paint, you can build a wide variety of last minute DIY Halloween costumes. A big LEGO brick, your favorite candy bar, a video game, or even a vending machine – the options are as limitless as your ideas. Just don’t forget to plan a way to wear the costume!

Pun-ny DIY Costumes

Creating a pun-based costume flexes the creative muscles. One pun costume might be “Hawaiian Punch,” wearing a grass skirt and boxing gloves. These are great for last-minute DIY costumes because while it might take some thinking, the accessories used don’t need to be complicated.

Emoji Costumes

Grab your phone and find your favorite emoji for inspiration. A simple purple t-shirt and you can be a lot of different emojis by moving your hands around. With a black hat, suspenders, bow tie, and three balls, you can be the juggling emoji. Use some face paint to create other emojis, such as the phases of the moon.

Halloween can be a lot of fun and dressing up doesn’t need to cost a lot of money. With a little planning, creativity, and your craft and accessories bins, you and your family can create fun DIY costumes that are sure to be a hit while trick-or-treating.

October 5, 2018
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Don’t Be Scared – Here’s How To Throw The Ultimate Kids Halloween Party

Planning any kind of party can be overwhelming — there are so many moving parts: the decorations, food, games, and, oh yeah, the amount of time you spend trying to keep your kids from messing up all the prep work you just did!

Then, there’s the added pressure of being compared to those parents in your son’s class who’ve never had a Pinterest Fail and somehow manage to flawlessly execute some terribly adorable rainbow or tie dye or kids’ movie theme every year.

But this season, it’s your time to shine! It’s hard to go wrong with a Halloween party – they come with automatic kid-pleasers like a built-in sense of magic and sugar… So. Much. Sugar! Forget the complicated recipes, hard-to-assemble decorations, carefully orchestrated games and accompanying extra stress. Instead, create the ultimate Halloween party with your kids. The only thing you’ll have to fear is the promise of too much fun!

Set The Mood With Decorations

Light up the front walkway with ghostly lanterns you make out of clean, empty plastic gallon milk jugs. Get the kids to help you draw ghost faces in black permanent marker; then, drop flameless LED lights or white holiday lights inside.

Pepper your walls with creepy crawly spiders by taping up black balloons and twisted black crepe paper for the legs. It will look like your house has been hit with an infestation! If you really want to get guests’ skin crawling, have videos of large spiders playing on loop in the background.

Need a before or during-the-party craft project? Cut paper plates into wreath shapes and then have the kids add ping pong balls with googly eyes on them. You can also leave out some accessories for kids who want to add some glitter or color. These turn out so good, you may not want to part with them to hang them on the wall.

Prefer your decorations on the creepier side? You’ll just need one of those scary Halloween masks, a pickle jar with no label, and water. Combine all three to make a floating head in a jar worthy of a Ray Bradbury short story.

Spooky Halloween Treats (Not Tricks)

For killer cookies or cupcakes, add candy knives or bloody axes, being sure to leave a trail of red gel “blood.” Kids will love placing the candies on top.

Super cute “Devil” deviled eggs are easy to make. Just use your usual recipe for deviled eggs, cut cherry tomatoes into narrow triangles to create horns, and add a little dill for a beard.

All you need to make Ogre Fingers is your classic sugar cookie recipe (with a bit of green food coloring added), along with almond slivers for the nail at the top, and maybe some red icing for blood. This recipe is fun to assemble with kids.

How about some edible mummies? Wrap some mini hot dogs in crescent rolls and there you have them! Three large marshmallows on a skewer with black food coloring for the eyes and mouth will also do the trick.

For a festive punch bowl, hollow out a large pumpkin and fill with your favorite punch recipe.

Fun Halloween Games For Kids

It’s not a kids’ Halloween party if there’s not toilet paper-wrapped children running around your house. Host a mummy relay race, dividing the kids into two groups and seeing who can wrap and run to the finish line the fastest.

When you’re done racing mummies, try racing spiders. Be sure to get some large straws with good blowing power because kids will be using them to get plastic toy spiders over the finish line.

How about a glow-in-the-dark ring toss? Get out some glass bottles, glow stick bracelets and glow-in-the-dark duct tape (to wrap around the bottle necks) for a fun and easy game.

For a quieter game that ends with a prize, have a clear jar filled with candy corn out for the duration of the party. Kids write their names on paper, along with their best guess about how many candy corns are in the jar. The kid who comes the closest wins a (mummy wrapped?) gift.

Pumpkin painting is a nice way to end the party. It’s a fun Halloween activity and gives everybody a cute gift/decoration to bring home. (Parent Tip: Use muffin tins to separate paint colors and keep messes to a minimum.)

Happy Halloween!

September 28, 2018
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Parenting Tips For Managing The First Six Months As A New Mom

Having a new baby is a magical, thrilling, maddening, scary, and exhausting time all at once. There are tiny one-piece bodysuits to wash, constant outfit and diaper changes, and lots of snuggles in between. While it can all be overwhelming, here are some parenting tips to help make those first six months with your new baby just a little bit easier.

Take Time To Rest & Recover

When your baby is born, instead of quickly getting back to all the tasks of daily life, take time to allow your body to rest and recover. Drink plenty of water and eat nutrient-rich meals and snacks regularly, particularly if you are breastfeeding. A lot of advice for new moms suggests sleeping while the baby is sleeping, and while you may take advantage of this some of the time, during those other hours where your newborn sleeps, read a book or take a shower. Self-care is vital during this period!

Find Clothes That Fit

You have just spent nine months growing a person. You should expect your body to be different after this experience. While this may be a transitional time, don’t spend your days in ill-fitting clothing. There’s no need to spend a fortune, but find some clothing that fits well, that’s comfortable, and you like to wear.

Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Help

Whether it’s from your partner, your parents, or your neighbors, don’t be shy about reaching out for assistance. Communities love to welcome new members, and babies are to be celebrated, so why not allow other people to help? This could be in the form of a ride to school for your older child, a warm meal, or even just a cup of coffee. Your neighbor may even have some wise advice for new parents to share with you.

Get Out Of The House

When you are rested and recovered from the birth, don’t isolate yourself by staying home with the baby all of the time. Your first excursion out with your baby might be intimidating, but it needn’t be with a little preparation and flexibility. Gather what you need to bring with you into a diaper bag or large tote. You don’t have to pack the whole house, but make sure to have a few clean diapers, wipes, two clean outfits in case of messes, and any feeding-related accessories. Don’t forget water and a snack for yourself, too!

Find Your People

This can be an intimidating step, especially for introverts, but try and find other moms with new babies. Consider setting up a rotating play date. Newborns will mostly sleep during these meet ups, but building a community where new moms can share parenting advice is important.

Trust Yourself

Being a new parent often brings feelings of self-doubt. After all, this is brand new territory, and babies can be intimidating. But remember: You’ve got this! If you have any questions, don’t be shy about contacting your baby’s pediatrician. They are used to giving advice to new moms and aren’t bothered by your questions. If you’re still not ready to get out of the house, online mom communities are also a good resource for asking questions and finding other mom advice and solidarity.

New babies are wonderful, and being a new mom is exciting while sometimes exhausting. Make the most of this time with your new baby by taking care of yourself so you are able to take care of your baby, too.

September 25, 2018
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What Do The Stars Say: October 2018 Horoscopes For Kids

LIBRA (September 23-October 22)
If your usually social-loving little Libra is being all little-miss or mister-independent lately, that’s likely because this month, the planets are in the eastern half of their chart. You might find your little one even a bit aggressive, which is against most Libran instincts. After the 14th, there’s change and progress, so don’t worry, Mom. Libras, ruled by the scales, are fair and justice-seeking. So whatever bee was in their bonnet will be gone or resolved by mid-month and their happy, socializing ways will be back in full swing — just in time for Halloween!

SCORPIO (October 23-November 22)
Are you noticing your intense, introspective Scorpio working diligently and making plans this month, Mom? There’s a goal they’re striving toward, and maybe they haven’t even told you about it. Observe them. After the 14th of this month, you’ll really see them jump into action to pursue whatever it is they’re after, whether that’s at school, in math class, or on the basketball team. And because these kids are resourceful, you can be sure they’ll get there. Be there to give them a resounding high five!

SAGITTARIUS (November 23-December 21)
Your happy-go-lucky Sagittarius kiddo might seem a little more assertive, even aggressive and self-confident this month. Their competitive streak may also be a little stronger with a desire to be the best outstripping their usual social, fun-loving selves. This is because Mars is moving into Sagittarius after the 21st of October. And you know what, Mom? They may just be numero uno for all of their efforts to change conditions to suit them, but you’ll still be there to remind them to enjoy the ride when they get a little too serious.

CAPRICORN (December 22-January 20)
Your already cautious Capricorn is even more vigilant this month. They’re giving a lot of thought to their actions and watching how they progress at something that’s important to them. This is especially the case from the 14th of October onward. In support of this ambition, your little Goat needs family harmony and happiness to reign supreme. But you’ve got this already, right, Mom?


AQUARIUS (January 21-February 19)
Hey, Mom, is your little water bearer making you all sorts of proud lately? If so, that’s because your kiddo’s eyes are firmly on the prize this month. Teachers, friends, and family are all noticing your kid working hard to achieve their goals. They’re popular, too, so don’t be surprised if they become top dog among their circle of friends. Tuesdays are lucky days and so are the colors navy blue and brown.


PISCES (February 20-March 19)
Is your little fish gravitating toward wearing yellow and orange this month, Mom? If so, those are Piscean colors for success (and calm waters), so go ahead and let them wear those sunshiny, fall colors. And it could be that whatever ambitions these kids have, are super important to them this month. It’s something that they’ve been thinking about for a while, and now is when they’ve chosen to act on those dreams. Whatever it is, your kiddo feels this goal will make them happy, so lend a hand and break out the cheery hues!

ARIES (March 20-April 19)
Your little charmers are about to have a pretty busy, socially-filled month, Mom. Loads of invitations to do cool stuff are definitely on the horizon. Expect your little Ram to turn on the charisma when they want something out of someone, even (especially!) you! And while this is all good fun, a gentle reminder, Mom, that it’s not always about them is a good approach. Sometimes what we want has to take a back seat to what others need. Growing up is tough to do.


TAURUS (April 20-May 21)
Monday blues? Not for your little Ox! Mondays and Wednesdays are lucky days this month, as are light blue and pink in terms of clothing colors. And this is good news because these kids will be focused on others, especially friends this fall. Venus helps boost this social period starting on the 9th, so be prepared for oodles of invitations, Mom, to birthday parties, school functions, and Halloween festivities. Buckle up, it’s going to be a busy month!

GEMINI (May 22-June 21)
Is your little Twin having a tough time concentrating this month, Mom? It could be that there’s a bunch of tiny things weighing on the minds of your usually effervescent child. But here’s the upside: young Geminis know how to turn on the social charm to get others to help them out. To get there, they need to go with the flow, especially after the 14th of October. That’s when they’re most likely to sort out whatever’s been internally giving them grief. You always knew they’d get there though, right?

CANCER (June 22-July 22)
Little Cancers are also known as moon babies because their moods often match the lunar cycle. In October, the most sensitive sign in the Zodiac will be much more active in getting what they want. And the way to get there is after the 14th of October, when working with others in school, in their arts club, or on the hockey rink, will bring them the success they crave now. Your little Crabs learn that sometimes, putting themselves out there socially, can net some pretty great rewards. And you’ll be there to help guide them, Mom.

LEO (July 23-August 22)
Sometimes, your little show-stopper just wants to feel like everything at home is hunky dory, Mom. This month, it’s family that’s really important to your little cub… even more important than getting the lead for that new play or being named captain of the team. Inner security is the name of the game this month. Your little lion wants to know that you’re ok, and so is everyone else in the family. Nurture this tender spot, Mom, and watch your child jump back on stage to wow your socks off!

VIRGO (August 23-September 22)
With Jupiter moving into Virgo’s 4th house this October, your kiddo will search for whatever makes them happy and gives them steadfast stability at home, around friends, and in school. And because these kids are born with innate, off-the-charts charm, it will help them get things done in their quest for happiness. There’s a solar eclipse happening on the 24th, which can have an effect on students regarding school or course changes. Be there to help them figure all of this stuff out, Mom.
September 23, 2018
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From The Teacher’s Desk: Teaching Kindness Outside The Classroom

What parenting really comes down to in so many ways is: Are our children kind? Being kind is a movement that seems to be gathering momentum in the world of education and child-rearing, and isn’t that spectacular? Kindness doesn’t happen by chance, though. It’s a learned characteristic. Kindness comes from having it modeled regularly and practicing it often. When children get it at home, they are more likely to show it in the classroom and do something when they see acts of bullying during school.

Here are five kindness lessons to make sure you teach kindness to help your children see it regularly and give them the consistent practice they need:

Declutter Your House & Show Your Child How To Give Away Abundance

There is so much extra stuff in our houses that we never use. Take the time to talk with your children about what they don’t use anymore and ask them to help you fill the car with useable belongings that will be loved by someone else. Bring your children to deliver these items to Goodwill or a local swap shop. Make it a point to ask your children to clear out their clutter before birthdays and Christmas when they know new items will take their place.

Assign Household Chores & Help Your Child Pick Up After Their Friends

Children who learn to help out at home “just because” will extend that assistance to those in need. Show them how to do things that are daily requirements like feeding the dog and loading the dishwasher. Reward their efforts by praising them or sharing how much easier life is for you when they help out.

Sign Up For Volunteer Jobs & Bring Your Children Along

When you learn that the PTA needs baked goods or your local food pantry needs help building up supplies and stocking shelves, sign up! Then, share with your children what you signed up for and why, and bring them along. When children see concrete examples of people helping other people, it feels so good. “I felt a warmth in my tummy after we made sure those older people had a good dinner,” explains Annie, age 11. “I couldn’t wait to do it again.”

Don’t Criticize Their Attempts At Acts Of Kindness

Just as babies are rewarded with ooh’s and ahh’s when they attempt to say Mama or Dada, reward attempts at kindness. If one of your children tries to make a bed, spend time thanking them for their efforts instead of explaining how to smooth out the wrinkles more thoroughly. Kids need time to get good at kind acts, and they won’t continue doing things when people make them feel poorly about the attempt.

Start Making Random Acts Of Kindness Dates With Your Child

Once you start doing this, you may wonder why you’ve never heard of it. Make a date with your child to spend 2-3 hours one-on-one doing random acts of kindness. Bring along a couple $5 bills and a bunch of $1’s to help spread the love. First of all, your child will love the focused time you spend with each other. Second, the feeling you’ll both get after giving random people $5 for food, paying for someone’s coffee, or organizing the grocery carts all over a parking lot will convert you into kindness addicts.

When you spread kindness with your child, you bring humanity back to center. It’s what we need in this world, but it’s also what works best for sending your kids out on their own to school and out in the real world. Everyone loves the kind kid.

Want to learn more? Check out www.kindness.org to be part of the larger movement of kindness.

Kimberley Moran is the mom of two children and the step-mom to two young adults. She is a senior digital editor at WeAreTeachers.com where she helps teachers improve the lives of kids everywhere. She was a teacher for 15 years, working to make sure children were both seen and heard. She wrote the book, Hacking Parenthood: Ten Mantras You Can Use Daily to Reduce the Stress of Parenting, to help all parents simplify their lives and love raising children. She lives in Maine with her family.

September 14, 2018
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A Dad’s Guide To Simple Fall Activities With The Kids

As temperatures drop and days get shorter, autumn offers dads (and moms, for that matter!) a plethora of opportunities for fun fall family activities to do with the kids. In my nine years as a parent, my three daughters and I have identified some of these favorites. For materials and supplies, we use only what we can find in the house, in our garden, or in the open space preserve just beyond our fence.

Making Homemade Slime

If your kids are like my kids, sometimes you wonder if they love you as much as they love slime. Instead of buying ours at the store (or in supermarket vending machines), we like to make it at home—it’s a fun activity and it makes the girls slightly less inclined to toss it after one use. The recipe is super-easy: 1 cup of water, 1 cup of cornstarch, and a creative dosing of food coloring to boot. In September, October, and November, we opt for fall colors such as red, orange, yellow, and gold.

Racing Gourds

Gourds are omnipresent in fall—at the local farmers’ market, the local grocery store, and more. Instead of using ours exclusively for decoration, the girls and I turn some into racecars—and we hold speed trials down the driveway. The gourd-to-car transition is simple: We use rubber mallets to tap long wooden dowels (or metal rods) into the meaty parts of the vegetables, then we tap on yarn spools or roller skate wheels on the end. The girls usually decorate their gourds, too; the prettiest “car” also wins a prize.

Tailgating…In Your Yard

I’m a huge college football fan (Go, Northwestern, go!) but it’s hard for me to get back to my alma mater for games in real life. Instead, the girls and I bring the tailgate to our front yard. On game mornings, I reposition our minivan in front of our driveway, wheel the grill around from the backyard, break out the cornhole, and stream the game live over Wi-Fi on my laptop. It’s a great way for the girls to feel school spirit. It’s also a fun excuse to party with the neighbors.

Leaf-rubbing Cards

My girls are maniacs about art, and they love making stuff they can give away. In fall, one of their favorite activities is to feature simple leaf-rubbings on cards. Making these rubbings is easy. First, we do a walkabout to collect pretty leaves around the neighborhood. Next, we bring our stash home to dry. Finally, the girls place select leaves beneath a piece of paper and start rubbing with the side of a crayon. Sure, it takes some trials to get the positioning right, but the designs are beautiful for the front of a card…and grandparents and other family and friends love receiving these special creations, too!

Matt Villano is a family travel writer and journalist based in Healdsburg, California. To learn more about him or read some of his work, visit whalehead.com.

September 13, 2018
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From The Teacher’s Desk: Everything Parents Need To Know To Help Their Kids Have The Best Year Yet

Setting kids up for school success is different for every family. Success is determined by the goals you set together, and your child’s ability and effort to achieve them, as well as the support they receive from you and the rest of the family.

For some kids, success means getting themselves dressed. For others, it’s completing homework on time. The goals you choose with your child will be specific to their needs and abilities, but there are also lots of ways to help your child reach those goals and be successful.

Here are 13 back-to-school tips for parents that will help you support your kids to have the best year yet:

Identify Goals

Work with your child to determine 3-5 goals that won’t come easy, but are achievable. Use this smart format to guide you: I want to ______________ by [insert a date]. I will ______________ to meet my goal. Here are some examples to get you started:

  • I want to improve my spelling by November. I will write my spelling words three times weekly to meet my goal.
  • I want to hand in every assignment on time. I will organize all my papers into subject folders to meet my goal.

Create a Launch Pad

Going back to school requires new tools for being prepared. Looking for items during the school year wastes a lot of time. Give each child one area to put their lunchbox, backpack, outdoor clothing, and school project materials. If you see them around the house, ask your child to bring them back to the launch pad. Getting kids into this habit will pay off big in the long run.

Teach Organizational Skills

Organized kids stay focused. For schoolwork, it means having a planner and homework folder to keep track of homework and projects. The older the child, the more they need different subject folders. Check your child’s planner and homework folder every school night so you’re familiar with assignments and your child doesn’t fall behind. Set up a spot for papers that you need to check or sign. Also, keep a special place for completed and graded projects and toss papers that you don’t need to keep. It’s also helpful to teach your child how to make a to-do list to help prioritize and get things done.

Know the School Rules

Check out the school website and classroom handbooks to learn school rules and regulations. The more you know, the more you can help remind your child and avoid challenges during the year.

Get Your Kids to School

Attendance matters. When kids aren’t in school, they can’t always keep up. The more regular a child’s attendance, the better the academic and social performance.

Keep Your Child Healthy

Make sure your child is eating healthy foods, drinking lots of water, and getting plenty of sleep. It’s hard to focus on the hard work of learning when you’re hungry, thirsty, or tired.

Talk about Active Learning

Kids need both active and passive learning experiences. It’s easier to understand what teachers mean when they want kids to sit and listen, but active learning is different. It requires processing, questioning, and satisfying curiosity. Talk through your process as an active learning and ask your kids what they might do next to learn more.

Make Reading a Daily Focus

Every teacher agrees that the students who do best read every day. Help your kids figure out what they like to read and get those books or magazines in their hands. Make sure your kid has a library card and goes to the library weekly to choose lots of books.

Advocate For Your Child

You know your child best. The more you share what you see in regard to how your child does in school, the better school can serve your child. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and schedule meetings to talk about your child’s success.

Teach Your Child Social Skills

When kids are kind, respectful, and polite, other people are kind in response. This means your child will have a better experience out in the world.

Talk about Math

We tend to focus so much on reading because we know it’s so valuable for achievement that we forget to talk about math. Show your kids how math comes into play in everyday life, like in cooking, measuring, time management, and shopping.

Value Effort

If you see your child putting in a huge amount of effort into homework or a school project, talk about it. “I am so amazed by how much work you’ve put into this” is more powerful in the long-term versus “Your project looks fantastic!”

Measure Goal Progress

Instead of measuring the end of a goal, consider checking in with your kids on their progress. Set up a date to talk about what they’re working toward and what they still need to do. Children who understand that there’s more to a school year than September and June will learn to value the days in between.

Helping your kids by explicitly teaching these life lessons will benefit them throughout their school years and beyond. The more you focus on this time in their lives as a learning experience, the more you’ll see how much they change and grow in such a short period of time.

Kimberley Moran is the mom of two children and the step-mom to two young adults. She is a senior digital editor at WeAreTeachers.com where she helps teachers improve the lives of kids everywhere. She was a teacher for 15 years, working to make sure children were both seen and heard. She wrote the book, Hacking Parenthood: Ten Mantras You Can Use Daily to Reduce the Stress of Parenting, to help all parents simplify their lives and love raising children. She lives in Maine with her family.

September 4, 2018
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