Tips On Getting Your Toddler To Dress Themselves

Your little one is adorable and has the clothes to match, but let’s face it: after months and months of lying there while you dressed them, things have taken a turn in toddlerhood. The clothes are still cute, but your toddler is probably less than cooperative when it comes to getting dressed.

Sound familiar? Here are some ideas for when and how to help your toddler get dressed independently.

At what age should children dress themselves?

As a parent, you inevitably have a few questions that stump you. As your baby grows from a baby to a toddler and becomes more independent, you’ll definitely find yourself wondering, “When should a child dress themselves, anyway?”

Experts say that most children will begin simple dressing activities by 2.5 years old, though they’re often interested as much as a year earlier. As you likely already know, toddlers enjoy undressing as soon as they are developmentally able.

How to teach a child to dress themselves

Your toddler has been aware of clothing for some time, so they likely know the basics of dressing. A few tools and some guidance from you can help them move beyond that.

Here are some tips that can help with teaching a child to dress themselves:

Limit options: Limiting choices can make the process a little easier on everyone. Offer two or three pre-selected outfits or separates. Your child is still making a choice, but not agonizing over all the options in their closet. As a bonus, their choices are sure to be seasonally-appropriate.

Start small: Don’t expect your toddler to be able to pick up a shirt and put it over their head in one day. Instead, start by helping them get their arms in and then letting them pull it down by themselves.

Rethink clothing with zippers and buttons: While your toddler does need to practice fine motor skills, the early days of dressing might not be the best time for this. They’ll be more successful (and feel more independent) if they’re able to put pants and shirts on without your help, so stick to comfy elastics when possible.

Add stools or chairs: Toddlers aren’t known for great balance, so balancing themselves to get pants on can be tricky. Add a stool or chair to the area where they usually get dressed, as well as where they put on shoes.

Work on fine motor skills: Some toys and dolls come with buttons and zippers for children to play with. Practicing these skills with toys when they’re not in a time crunch is one way to develop fine motor skills required for independent dressing.

Have patience: Whether it’s picking out the day’s outfit or struggling to put on a shoe (or two), self-dressing will take some getting used to, for both of you. While your kid is learning to dress themselves, you’ll need to build in extra time to get, well, anywhere. Having that extra time will allow you to relax and not jump in right away with assistance if your child is struggling. Sometimes your help will be needed, but other times your little one needs just a few more minutes of effort.

Toddlerhood isn’t easy on anyone, even that little one in the cute outfit. Take heart: while your toddler will still need you for lots of little things, soon, dressing won’t be one of them.

September 4, 2018
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How To Prep Your Anxious Child For Pre-K Or Kindergarten

Some children barrel toward unfamiliarity without a second thought. Super tall slide in the park? Yes! A chance to touch a boa constrictor? Hooray! Other kids? Not so much. They cling to your leg at birthday parties and have fits at the dentist.

As summer wanes and back-to-school time approaches, your wary child may be visibly or verbally anxious. They may shut down because they lack the vocabulary (or confidence, or trust) to express their fears. They may refuse to discuss school or revert to younger, developmentally inappropriate behaviors.

Here are tips from a longtime elementary school teacher and mom on getting your child ready for pre-k or kindergarten. Consider this your pre-k/kindergarten readiness checklist!

Play with classmates over the summer

Many schools give out contact information for classmates’ families. If not, request it. Set up a whole group gathering in a local park in June or July to see with whom your child clicks. Then, set up one-on-one playdates with the kids your child liked best. Host them at your home so you can get to know the new kids, too! Offer structure and supervision as needed. Making art, exploring nature, building forts, and cooking are perennial favorites for playdate activities.

Get to know the school grounds and staff

Talk to school administrators about visiting the school over the summer. If possible, play on the playground a few times. Walk the halls to locate the bathrooms, and practice turning on the sink and flushing the toilets. Find the front office. Introduce yourselves to the office and janitorial staff, who often work year-round. Learn their names. They are instrumental to the school and your child’s early learning experiences.

Play school

Using stuffed animals as classmates, set up a pretend classroom in the safe confines of your home. Make a rug area and a desk/chair area and practice transitioning between the two by singing a familiar song or ringing chimes or a bell. Practice drawing with a deadline (say “Two more minutes!”), writing your name on the paper, and putting the paper in a certain spot to simulate turning it in. Ask to go to the bathroom or get a drink of water. Alternate roles so that sometimes your child is the student and sometimes the teacher. Call your child Ms. or Mr. or Teacher when they are in charge. And don’t forget to raise your hand!

Meet the teacher

Teachers are off-duty during the summer, but they return to work at least one week before school actually begins. Arrange to meet your child’s teacher briefly in the classroom. Have your child make a drawing or card for the teacher, and bring a baked good or a flower to sweeten the deal. Do not ask overly personal or philosophical questions. Keep it light and easy. Now is not the time to divulge concerns—do that over email. You can, however, ask if they have any last-minute advice for your anxious pre-k kid, or if they want to share any kindergarten readiness tips.

Enjoy books together

Today’s 5-year-olds are put under an intense amount of scrutiny and pressure to perform, and are often expected to learn to read before first grade. Do not try to teach your child to read, but do read out loud to your child every night as part of your bedtime routine. Librarians are a fabulous resource for what picture books kids are loving right now. Just as Pixar movies have blurred the line between children’s and adult entertainment, contemporary children’s books are hilarious and enjoyable for readers of every age. Gone are the days of preachy characters, sappy happy endings, and forced rhymes. Try The Book With No Pictures and This is Not My Hat.

Establish a healthy sleep schedule

This task feels impossible with summer’s long sunny days and endless evening events, but do what you can to put your young child to bed before 8:30pm — 9:00pm at the very latest. After dinner, do not allow children to have screen time—studies show that the light from screens is too stimulating to our senses. Bath, cozy pajamas, and books, then lights out! Let kids know that it’s okay to rest quietly in bed for some time before falling all the way asleep.

Use art to express feelings about school

Encourage your child to explore any uncomfortable feelings using art as an outlet. Put newspaper down on the kitchen table or go outside, throw an apron or old clothes on, and let your child make a mess with materials that are sometimes forbidden—finger paints, acrylics, watercolors, glitter, glue, clay—not just plain paper and crayons (though those can work, too!). Work alongside your child on your own art. Give the prompts: “What does your brain say about starting school? How does your heart feel?” Discuss your child’s hopes and dreams for the start of school, helping them to articulate and illustrate them.

Go back-to-school shopping together

Make shopping an exciting part of the pre-k and kindergarten readiness process. Go to stores together and let your child pick out a backpack, a lunch box, clothes, and shoes. Don’t wait until the last week of summer when stores are chaotic and crowded! Give your child time and space to make thoughtful decisions about what to buy. Lay out your child’s favorite outfit the night before school to smooth the morning routine.

Once school starts, be sure to stay in close communication with your child’s teacher, and continue using these how-to tips to keep your child sharing with you about their back-to-school feelings.

August 28, 2018
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A 50-State Guide To Fall 2018’s Best Family-Friendly Events

As days get shorter and the air gets crisp, fall is a fabulous time for family-friendly events across the country. Here are our favorites by state, listed alphabetically.


Event: National Shrimp Festival

When: October 11-14, 2018

The skinny: It’s hard not to think about Forrest Gump during this annual Gulf Shores party that pays homage to shrimp. The festival—set to celebrate its 47th year—serves up more than 200 pounds of shrimp a day, as well as live music, singing contests, and a sand sculpture showdown. There’s even a village where kids can do arts and crafts.

Why go: Two words: GULF SHRIMP.


Event: Alaska Bald Eagle Festival

When: November 7-10, 2018

The skinny: Every November about 4,000 bald eagles flock (see what we did there?!) to Haines, Alaska, to feast on salmon swimming up the Stikine River, and locals throw a party to welcome the birds back. The party comprises bird-watching, interpretive guiding, free dinners at a local schoolhouse, and an art bazaar. There’s also an open-mic reading for original poetry about birds.

Why go: Technically speaking, the migration creates the largest congregation of bald eagles in the world.


Event: Arizona State Fair

When: October 5-28, 2018

The skinny: Every state has a state fair, but what makes the annual Arizona bash so special is the attention it pays to traditions from rural parts of the state. There’s a petting zoo with local animals, performances by Native American spirit dancers, and a turkey stampede. There’s also car racing and live music with some pretty major bands.

Why go: Between funnel cake and livestock shows, there’s nothing like a state fair.


Event: Arkansas Apple Festival

When: October 5-7, 2018

The skinny: October is harvest time across the Arkansas Apple Belt, and this festival, in Lincoln, celebrates the milestone. The three-day party offers lots of opportunities to eat local apples, as well as participate in arts and crafts and kids’ activities, enjoy fair food, and, of course, watch an apple-themed parade.

Why go: Freshly picked applies are delicious, even if you don’t put them in a pie.


Event: California Avocado Festival

When: October 5-7, 2018

The skinny: “Peace, Love, and Guacamole” is the slogan for this annual festival, held in downtown Carpinteria along the Central Coast. The party boasts hundreds (if not thousands) of options for avocado-based food, including what’s purported to be the world’s largest vat of guacamole. The party also usually sports a number of tents with kid-oriented arts and crafts, live music, and shopping.

Why go: It’s hard to pass up the opportunity to sample from the world’s largest vat of guacamole.


Event: Kids Halloween Parade and Party

When: October 25, 2018

The skinny: Halloween comes early at Union Station in downtown Denver with this annual festival that includes a live DJ, stilt walkers, a magician, a parade through the Great Hall and around nearby Wynkoop Plaza, trick-or-treating at station merchants, and costume contests galore. Local bars also offer drink specials for adults.

Why go: The more trick-or-treating you can squeeze into one year, the better.


Event: Connecticut Renaissance Faire

When: Weekends from September 1-October 14, 2018

The skinny: Jousting contests, fairies, archery displays, minstrels, and princesses are among the highlights of this annual Lebanon event, which today is among the biggest gatherings of its kind anywhere in the United States. In particular, kids love the Knight School and the birds of prey shows. Events and attractions change every year; the 2018 event is the 20th annual.

Why go: Everybody should experience eating a giant roasted turkey leg with their hands by age 15.


Event: Sea Witch Halloween & Fiddlers’ Festival

When: October 26-28, 2018

The skinny: This annual party in Rehoboth Beach celebrates Halloween in style—with a costume parade and a citywide hunt for a creature called the Sea Witch. There’s also live entertainment, dozens of food trucks, and a program for dogs (preferably dogs in costume). As the event title suggests, there’s also a program for fiddle players, and a contest to crown a champ.

Why go: When you’re close to the coast, what’s Halloween without a sea witch?


Event: Family Fall Festival

When: October 13, 2018

The skinny: The Family Fall Festival, held at Mistletoe State Park in Appling, is an old-school type of family affair. Think hayrides, crafts, storytelling, and more. There also usually are a host of children’s games to be played. The fair sits on the shores of Clarks Hill Lake near Augusta, and there are cabins for families to rent if they want to spend the weekend.

Why go: Hayrides are going the way of the dodo bird, so seize the opportunity while you can.


Event: Annual Waikiki Hoolaulea

When: September 22, 2018

The skinny: Put simply, this annual event is Hawaii’s largest block party. Entertainers, food vendors, and more take over Kalakaua Avenue in downtown Honolulu to offer revelers a carefree day of strolling and partying. Kid-friendly activities include Hawaiian crafts such as lei-making, as well as classes in Hula-dancing.

Why go: The best way to appreciate other cultures is to learn about them first-hand.


Event: Fall Harvest Festival

When: October 6-7, 2018

The skinny: Live music, games, and catered food highlight this annual event at the Idaho Botanical Garden in Boise. While kids are getting their faces painted or exploring the straw maze, moms and dads can shop in an artist market full of crafts from local artisans. There’s even something called the Scarecrow Stroll, which is a sort of line dance.

Why go: Every attendee also gets a free pumpkin.


Event: Pierre Marquette State Park Apple Festival

When: September 23, 2018

The skinny: This annual fall festival is set in Grafton, right in the heart of Illinois apple country. Festivities include an apple pie walk (which is similar to a cake walk), a pumpkin roll, and other kid-oriented games. There’s also lots of apple-centric food—everything from apple fritters to caramel apples and more. Kids love the handmade crafts, live music, and games.

Why go: Not only is the event fun, but everything about it is free.


Event: Conner Prairie’s Festival of Machines

When: September 15-16, 2018

The skinny: This event, in Fishers, celebrates Indiana’s transportation history by enabling kids (and parents) to get up-close-and-personal with airplanes, helicopters, and vintage fire trucks, to name a few. There’s a tractor parade, as well as a “petting zoo” with other heavy-duty machinery. Kids even have the opportunity to take new go-karts for a spin.

Why go: You had us as machinery “petting zoo.”


Event: Anamosa Pumpkinfest and Ryan Norlin Giant Pumpkin Weigh-Off

When: October 6-7, 2018

The skinny: Anamosa is the unofficial pumpkin capital of Iowa, which means the town’s annual Pumpkinfest is chock-full of giant orange gourds. The shindig features food and craft vendors, a grand parade, kids’ games, pumpkin-picking, and a weigh-off that crowns the largest pumpkin of the bunch. The pumpkin pie-off also is pretty tasty.

Why go: Pumpkins the size of small cars!


Event: American Royal Livestock, Horse Show, and Rodeo

When: September 2018

The skinny: Kansas City’s biggest festival of the year comprises a host of events, from livestock sales to horse shows and, of course, rodeos. The Youth and Pro rodeos are held September 25-29 and include some of the most talented ropers and riders in the state; the barbecue competition—the American Royal World Series of Barbecue—is September 13-16, and guarantees every participant a heaping plate of food.

Why go: Whichever events you attend, the culture of the Wild West reigns supreme.


Event: Spoonbread Festival

When: September 21-23, 2018

The skinny: Sure, this annual festival in the town of Berea boasts hot-air balloon rides and a parade, but the biggest draw is the bread from which it draws its name—a souffle-type bread that’s eaten with a spoon. All told, organizers make hundreds of pans of the bread, and families come together to cheer on participants in the spoonbread-eating contest. There’s also a kids’ play area with games and crafts.

Why go: Spoonbread is a delicacy in these parts, and the goodies at this party don’t disappoint.


Event: Beignet Fest

When: October 6, 2018

The skinny: Every kid loves beignets, those light and fluffy squares of sugar-covered fried dough made famous by Café du Monde in New Orleans. With this in mind, it’s safe to assume kids will enjoy Beignet Fest, too. The event features more than 20 different kids of beignets, including both sweet and savory options. The free party also boasts live music, a kids’ village, and more.

Why go: Proceeds benefit the Tres Doux Foundation, which helps kids with developmental disabilities.


Event: Rolling Slumber Bed Races

When: November 10, 2018

The skinny: Silliness is the name of the game in this Brunswick event, during which competitors race down the town’s main street in—you guessed it—beds on wheels. Only adults can participate, but the environment is perfect for kids, especially since the associated festival has child-oriented activities (bouncy houses, craft tables) and kid-friendly food.

Why go: See who wins prizes for speed, creativity, and team spirit.


Event: Kinderfest

When: October 7, 2018

The skinny: Who needs Oktoberfest when there’s Kinderfest? This free festival, held at Watkins Regional Park in Upper Marlboro, is a beer-free celebration of autumn and harvest. Activities include live music, bouncy houses, pony rides, face-painting, train rides, arts and crafts, and more. The park also brings in food vendors from all over the surrounding area.

Why go: Because the festival is geared toward little ones, every activity is kid-focused.


Event: Cranberry Harvest Celebration

When: October 6-7, 2018

The skinny: Put on a pair of waders and wander out into a bog of cranberries at this annual event, held at a bog in Wareham, near Cape Cod. In addition to enabling kids to get first-hand experience with a cranberry harvest, the festival features live music, games, pony rides, food vendors, and more. Kids also can take paddleboat rides available on scenic Tihonet Pond.

Why go: Bogs in this part of the country usually aren’t open to the public, so this is a real treat.


Event: Hobo Fest

When: September 15-16, 2018

The skinny: This festival, sponsored by the Port Huron & Detroit Railroad Historical Society, is designed to teach kids about railroad history and Port Huron’s role as an important transportation center. The event features a Spam-carving contest, live music, games, and arts and crafts for kids. Attendees also will have the opportunity to climb aboard some old trains and see how hobos would have lived.

Why go: You’ll be amazed at how real experts can carve Spam.


Event: Sever’s Fall Festival

When: September 7-October 28, 2018

The skinny: One of the largest family-owned farms in Shakopee hosts a rollicking fall festival every year. Historically, the event has included a giant corn pit, an expansive corn maze, bouncy pillows, live music, and more. This year, organizers also expect to host a petting zoo, magic shows, a zip line, and face-painting. There’s also a pumpkin patch to make sure noone leaves empty handed.

Why go: The corn maze alone is one of the most challenging in the state.


Event: Cruisin’ the Coast

When: September 30-October 7, 2018

The skinny: Throwback cars, throwback music, and old-school entertainment are in full effect during this event that unfolds in Gulfport, Biloxi, and other Gulf Coast towns in early autumn. Main events include auto parades, races, and engine repair demonstrations. There also are dozens of activities just for kids, including bouncy houses, arts and crafts tables, oil change contests, and more.

Why go: Classic cars never go out of style.


Event: National Crafts & Cowboy Festival

When: September 12-October 27, 2018

The skinny: Branson is a popular tourist spot year-round, but the city comes alive during this annual event, which celebrates both cowboy culture and crafting. The craft component assembles a cornucopia of artisans. The cowboy component features wild mustangs, an old-fashioned barn dance, chuck-wagon cooking, and more—all stuff kids will be talking about until next year.

Why go: 2018 is the final year for a Wild West Show inspired by Buffalo Bill.


Event: McIntosh Apple Day

When: October 6, 2018

The skinny: Locals in Hamilton think of McIntosh Apple Day as the biggest bake sale of the year. In reality, the event is a bit like a farmers’ market multiplied by 100s —hundreds of vendors selling different baked goods that feature that signature local product: the McIntosh apple. Other items for sale include caramel apples and apple butter. When they’re not chowing down, kids can bob for apples, too.

Why go: There’s no better way to sample local flavor than to visit a local farmers’ market.


Event: AppleJack Festival

When: September 21-23, 2018

The skinny: This annual festival in Nebraska City marks the start of the annual apple harvest, which means it comprises lots of celebrating and lots of apples in lots of different forms. Apple cider. Apple pancakes. Apple fritters. Apple pies. You get the idea. The event also has six different craft fairs, a classic car show, live music, and a three-day carnival.

Why go: Every harvest should start with a party.


Event: Great Reno Balloon Race

When: September 7-9, 2018

The skinny: More than 100 hot-air balloons take flight during this three-day event that unfolds in the skies above Reno. So long as the kids can get up early (like, 4 a.m.), watching the early-morning ascent is, quite literally, spectacular. A festival with live music and local food vendors corresponds to the balloon events.

Why go: A sky dotted with dozens of hot-air balloons is something your kids will remember forever.

New Hampshire

Event: Warner Fall Foliage Festival

When: October 5-7, 2018

The skinny: There’s nothing quite like the explosion of color produced by fall in New England; green leaves turn red, orange, yellow, and just about every shade in between. This phenomenon was the impetus behind the Fall Foliage Festival in Warner, established more than 70 years ago; it remains a focus today. Kid-friendly activities during the festival include a dance-off and a fun run.

Why go: Parents will love the lobster-and-chicken barbecue.

New Jersey

Event: Lakewood Lions 37th Annual Renaissance Fair

When: September 15-16, 2018

The skinny: Everything about this party is a throwback to the 16th century. There are knights with armor. There are princesses with Rapunzel-length hair. There’s just about everything in between. There’s also a “country village” with artists, musicians, storytellers, and magicians. Then, of course, there’s the food: roasted turkey legs, dragon dogs, and funnel cakes, to name a few.

Why go: You don’t get many chances to hunker down in a sleeping bag; seize the opportunity!

New Mexico

Event: Festival of the Cranes

When: November 14-17, 2018

The skinny: Capitalizing on various bird migrations through the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, this shindig is all about the crane. Some sources indicate that 5,000 birds participate every year—a number that appears to be growing from year to year. Organizers provide kiddos with binoculars and scavenger hunt-style paperwork to complete while they’re out there.

Why go: Rush hour in the sky is way more appealing than rush hour on the streets.

New York

Event: Adirondack Balloon Festival

When: September 20-23, 2018

The skinny: The year 2018 is the 46th annual running of this balloon festival, held in Queensbury. There are more than 100 balloons every year, and the site of these behemoths rising quietly against the backdrop of the Adirondacks is a sight to behold. The surrounding festival also features live music, great local food, and a variety of games for kids to play.

Why go: Nothing captivates the imagination of a little one quite like a slowly climbing hot-air balloon.

North Carolina

Event: Wooly Worm Festival

When: October 20-21, 2018

The skinny: Kids who love playing with insects will love this silly festival, which essentially revolves around wooly worms racing each other for the title of speediest. The winning worm nets its owner $1,000 cash and supposedly predicts the winter weather for the High Country of North Carolina. In addition to the races, the event features a craft fair, food vendors, and games.

Why go: There aren’t many places where you get to race worms — much less for the chance to win $1,000!

North Dakota

Event: Uffda Day

When: October 7, 2018

The skinny: Scandinavian heritage is on full display in this Rutland celebration that honors the heritage of many local townspeople. The festival features a communal breakfast, a race, and a craft fair afterward. Ethnic foods available include Abelskievers (Danish pancake balls), Uffda (which means “scalloped”) potatoes, and bratwurst.

Why go: You’ve gotta love a festival that teaches a history lesson, too.


Event: Ohio River Sternwheel Festival

When: September 7-9, 2018

The skinny: This festival is all about sternwheel boats, which dock in Marietta every year starting around this time (and continuing well into December). The party begins on shore, where kids’ tents provide spacious shelter for engaging in arts and crafts. The bash continues on the boats themselves, many of which have been outfitted to accommodate additional passengers.

Why go: Sternwheelers are a dying breed; this could be your last chance to see them in the wild.


Event: Honobia Bigfoot Festival & Conference

When: October 5-6, 2018

The skinny: Legend has it that the Sasquatch—a.k.a., Bigfoot—frequented the area around Honobia, so the townspeople got together a few years back and organized a festival to celebrate the claim to fame. Today, the festival offers helicopter rides, a kids’ zone with bouncy houses, and face-painting and food options. Oddly enough, the only thing missing is Bigfoot himself.

Why go: It’s a party to celebrate Bigfoot. Drop the mic there.


Event: Portland Book Festival

When: November 10, 2018

The skinny: One of the biggest festivals of the year in Portland is an event dedicated to books. The festival, which used to be called “Wordstock,” puts audience members right up in front of writers who wish to read from pieces or books they’ve worked on recently. There’s a children’s program, which is very exciting for kids who attend.

Why go: If nothing else, attending this event gives you a reason to check out the justly famous Powell’s Books.


Event: Apple Butter Frolic

When: October 6, 2018

The skinny: The “Frolic,” as it’s known locally, is a great opportunity for families to get a glimpse into Mennonite culture, a prevalent way of life in and around Harleysville. The festival offers horse-drawn wagon rides, cooking demonstrations, a harvest baking contest, and an apple foods tent where kids can sample some of the baked goods for which Mennonite bakers are famous.

Why go: Short of reading a textbook, the event is a crash-course in becoming familiar with Mennonite culture.

Rhode Island

Event: WaterFire Salute to Veterans

When: November 10, 2018

The skinny: Downtown Providence is home to WaterFire, a spectacle that incorporates dance and boats to make it seem as if fire is moving on the basin and the harbor. While WaterFire takes place throughout most of the summer and fall, this particular event commemorates Veterans Day, and is somber but powerful. In addition to flames, the celebration includes a giant American flag.

Why go: No matter how many times you see it, fire dancing on water seems like an illusion.

South Carolina

Event: South Carolina Pecan Festival

When: November 3, 2018

The skinny: Pecans are the stars of the show at this annual event held in Florence. Festivities include art demonstrations, amusement rides, an antique tractor show, a car show, a chalk art competition, races, and more. Every year there are at least 30 food vendors, as well as a free Kids’ Zone with games, crafts, and refreshments.

Why go: You haven’t tasted pecan pie until you’ve sampled at least some of the 10 varieties here.

South Dakota

Event: Black Hills Powwow

When: October 5-7, 2018

The skinny: Native American cultural events aren’t usually on the national radar screen, but this is one of the biggest and best. Held annually in Rapid City, the powwow attracts tribes from all over the West. Participating groups engage in native dances that celebrate individual cultures. The event also includes the He Sapa Win pageant, which crowns a queen each year.

Why go: The driving beats and colorful regalia of Native American dances are a thrilling sight.


Event: Cheekwood Harvest

When: September 23-October 29, 2018

The skinny: Cheekwood Estate and Gardens is one of Nashville’s most beautiful places to witness native flora in all of its glory. Naturally, then, harvest time at the estate is a spectacle worth seeing. For starters, the property’s 5,000+ chrysanthemum bushes explode with color every fall. Second, the place puts on quite a show for kids, complete with art programs, story time, and a pumpkin patch.

Why go: Every year, Cheekwood expands its collection of custom-made scarecrows.


Event: East Texas Yamboree

When: October 17-20, 2018

The skinny: Forget about Dallas, Houston, and Austin in the fall—the real party is in Gilmer, home of the East Texas Yamboree. As the name suggests, this festival pays homage to the yam, which grows in abundance nearby. In addition to baked goods incorporating yams, the festival features a beauty pageant, square dancing, a livestock show and sale, and a carnival.

Why go: Because just saying “Yamboree” makes you feel happy.


Event: Snowbird’s Oktoberfest

When: August 18-October 21, 2018

The skinny: This particular Oktoberfest, held on weekends at the ski resort in Snowbird, has plenty of kid activities like games, arts and crafts and dancing. There’s even a kid-friendly food pavilion, with goodies such as maple-bacon waffles on a stick and schnitzels of various flavors.

Why go: Men’s Journal ranked this particular bash as one of the 10 best Oktoberfests in America.


Event: Vermont Sheep & Wool Festival

When: September 29-30, 2018

The skinny: If an animal produces fiber, you’ll find it at this annual event in Tunbridge. Kids will love the petting zoo and fiber arts (read: knitting) classes; grown-ups will love the craft fair and the workshops about life as a shepherd. There’s also live music, on-site camping, and dozens upon dozens of food vendors.

Why go: You never know when you might need to know how to herd a bunch of sheep.


Event: Manassas Fall Jubilee

When: October 6, 2018

The skinny: More than 100 crafter and community booths are expected to be on hand at the annual Manassas Fall Jubilee, a big party to celebrate harvest season. The event offers live music, games for the family, and educational opportunities on the front lawn of the Manassas Museum.

Why go: Manassas has colorful history; the Jubilee offers a fun way for kids to connect with that past.


Event: One Sky, One World Kite Festival

When: October 14, 2018

The skinny: The Kite Museum in Long Beach is the backdrop for the local installment of this worldwide event to commemorate peace. As part of the effort, families are encouraged to launch their kites on the beach and fly them in solidarity. Local kite experts offer workshops for families to design and/or decorate their own kites. Historians also are on hand to talk about the history of the kite.

Why go: Kites! Flying by the hundreds on a strand of beach! Need we say more?

West Virginia

Event: Roadkill Cook-off & Autumn Harvest Festival

When: September 29, 2018

The skinny: Squirrel gravy over biscuits and teriyaki-marinated bear are among the options at this quirky annual event that really does reveal new and exciting ways to prepare roadkill. The event, held in downtown Marlinton, also features crafters, local food, and a variety of games for kids. Bonus: a giant square dance in which families can participate as one.

Why go: The “Eww!” factor will give your kids something different to write about in that back-to-school “What I did on my summer vacation” essay.


Event: Warrens Cranberry Festival

When: September 28-30, 2018

The skinny: Warrens bills itself as the “Cranberry Capital of Wisconsin,” so it’s fitting that the town’s annual cranberry fest is one of the most rollicking parties around. All told, the party attracts more than 1,300 booths of arts and crafts, antiques, tchotchkes, and food items featuring cranberries. Families also can take tours of the marshes.

Why go: You never can learn too much about cranberries and how they’re harvested.


Event: Jackson Hole Fall Arts Festival

When: September 5-16, 2018

The skinny: This annual shindig is fun for the whole family, with food trucks and a craft tent for kids to make their own art. The 34th annual event is expected to have exhibits from more than 50 local artists, as well as a “quick draw” competition to see who can make the most beautiful painting in five minutes or less.

Why go: Art is worth celebrating in all forms, especially when it’s made by your kids.

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.

August 24, 2018
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What Do The Stars Say: September 2018 Horoscopes For Kids

VIRGO (August 23-September 22)

Here’s a tip, Mom- little Virgos not only like and crave stability. They need it. With back-to-school routines shaking up their summer-time chill, it’s a good idea to get your little perfectionists on board with the new routine by explaining what happens when, where, and in what classroom. These kids have high standards, of themselves especially. So while you have a high achiever in school, help smooth the rough spots (like the odd time they don’t instantly get something) with any help they need and a good dose of hugs.

LIBRA (September 23-October 22)
If your little Libra is of school-age, get them some clay, markers, crayons, or paints to see what artistic masterpieces they can conjure. Libra is, ruled by Venus, the planet of creativity and art. Your social butterfly also has pretty firm opinions about what they’ll wear to school. Lucky for you, Mom, they’ve got great taste, so not only will they look sharp on the first day back, they’ll probably be the best-dressed to boot! Perhaps a career in fashion design awaits?

SCORPIO (October 23-November 22)
Say, did your digital camera (or anything else that’s electronic and full of parts) go missing, only to be found disassembled a few days or weeks later? You might want to ask your little Scorpio if they had anything to do with that! These kids are natural investigators and they deep dive into subjects they find fascinating, like taking apart equipment to “see how it all works.” Be patient, Mom, and know that your kiddo’s natural curiosity is fueled by a pretty hefty intelligence and desire to understand. Who knows? Maybe you have a future cancer researcher on your hands!

SAGITTARIUS (November 23-December 21)
Jupiter rules Sagittarius, which means these are good-time Charlies or Charlenes at heart. They’re intelligent children who naturally do well at school, but yeah, Mom, they just can’t resist a good get-together, social activity or party. Help them balance their love of fun with the “must-do’s” in life, like school. The upside? These clever Archers are smart enough to handle it, especially with your gentle guidance.

CAPRICORN (December 22-January 20)
These “doers” like to keep busy, Mom, so ensure that your little Goat gets interactive, engaging projects to start the school year — especially those they can accomplish and feel good proud of, that’s key. Early Capricorn kids (those born December 22-31) often have creative streaks in them, be they fans of art, drama, or music. Whatever your kiddo decides to pursue, you can bet they’ll have the stamina and discipline to develop their talent in spades. The sky’s the limit, Mom!

AQUARIUS (January 21-February 19)
Back to school means back to socializing for your little people-loving water bearer. These kids usually prefer to join a team than to sit in solitude and practice an instrument for hours on their own. If that’s the case, sign them up for soccer, the drama team… whatever tickles their fancy this fall. These are bright, creative kids whose ideas and “out-of-the-box” thinking impress both you, Mom, and teachers alike.

PISCES (February 20-March 19)
If getting back into a routine is proving to be a challenge for your little fish, try taking them for a walk along a lake, the beach, a river- any body of water really. It will help them feel calm, grounded, and content. This is a sensitive child whose imagination is beyond fertile — give them a good storybook and they’re entertained for spells at a time. But if your child needs to blow off steam this fall, it’s a great time to enroll them in a dance class or in some activity where they can use their talented and agile feet! Tap class, anyone?

ARIES (March 20-April 19)
These spunky kids are always on the go… so yeah, that means they’re prone to leaping before they look, driven by a fierce competitive streak to be number 1 in just about everything (including academics)! If you go head-to-head with your little ram, remember to have all of your very good reasons/argument ready to be delivered. A flat out no will just lead to you butting heads. Be patient, Mom, and take the time to provide context. Sometimes your speed demons — who, by the way, may be future pro athletes or CEOs — need to slow down to grasp it all with your help.

TAURUS (April 20-May 21)
It’s a good thing your little Ox is patient because when things get stressful, they can handle it better than most. But while they’re easygoing, it’s going to be mighty difficult to change their minds once they decide they’re doing something. Remember, Mom, the more you push, the less this kiddo will budge. Here’s the upside, though: this steadfast approach is exactly what helps drive Taurus-born kids to succeed at school. And as they mature, this quality can help turn them into wildly successful adults. Many are, after all, entrepreneurs in waiting!

GEMINI (May 22-June 21)
Little Twins almost always shine in school. Part of the reason is their innate curiosity and quick minds. Their favorite question,”Why?”, is met with delight by teachers who like engaging their students and encouraging exploration. And yeah, Mom, they’ll keep you on your toes with the same question too, so be prepared! These effective communicators are also gifted at explaining things to others. Perhaps you have a teacher or professor in the making on your hands!

CANCER (June 22-July 22)
If your little crab has siblings at school with them, you can count on them being the sibs’ self-appointed protector. Woe betide the overzealous classmate who pushes this crab’s brother or sister around. While gentle in nature, crabs also have a determined, take-charge spirit, and they’re all about family. Part of them is greatly motivated by security, especially for their clan and close friends. Maybe they’ll decide to take over the family business!

LEO (July 23-August 22)
Attention-seeking Leos are self-assured little cubs with a determined side. And that’s a good thing, Mom, because you want a leader who thinks for themselves as they grow up, right? This sun sign needs an outlet for their almost never-ending energy, so consider signing them up for a school sports team or a drama class where they can shine and take center stage. It’s where they feel most comfortable.
August 23, 2018
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From The Teacher’s Desk: Tips For Transitioning Kids From Summer To School

No matter how old your children are, going back to school after a relaxing summer can have its challenges. With a little pre-planning, though, you and your child can feel great about this year’s adventure. Here are back to school tips to help your child (and you!) get ready to learn and grow.

Pre-K and Kindergarten

Kids who are just starting school have the unique challenge of not knowing what to expect from school itself. Even if they went to daycare, grade school is a new experience. The best way to help ease the worries for these children is to give them the tools they need to manage their expectations.

1. Maintain a schedule

Post a daily schedule at home. Refer to the schedule regularly and try to follow it as much as possible. This will make the school schedule feel comforting instead of strange.

2. Keep regular meals

Stick to three meals a day, plus a couple of snacks. Kids who eat all day long may have a tougher time at school.

3. Practice getting dressed

Have your child practice putting clothes on independently. Bonus: Your child’s teacher will appreciate this: With one adult in the classroom, it’s hard for the teacher to button 20 kids’ rain coats.

4. Write a letter to the teacher

Together with your child, write a letter to the new teacher and send it to school. Initiating this conversation breaks the ice when they do meet.

5. Read together

Children going into pre-K and kindergarten spend a lot of time reading. Reading to your child and asking questions them about the book can give them a head start for what they’ll be learning in the classroom.

1st through 3rd grade

Children who’ve been to school before tend to be more concerned about who they’ll know in their class. They might also be worried about the actual schoolwork for that grade.

1. Find a friend

Try to find out who has the same teacher as your child. Consider scheduling a playdate with that child so they both have a friendly face on the first day. You might even want to meet on the school playground!

2. Help them practice using their voice

When kids are at home, parents often give them what they need without being asked. This is the lovely part about knowing each other so well. But, at school, kids need to make their needs heard during the day. Help your child greet someone without being greeted first or ask for what they need during dinner. You might even have them ask for the check in a restaurant as practice.

3. Play the “what might happen” game

Here, you’ll come up with a scenario and ask your child what might happen. For example, “If you can’t find the bathroom at school, what might you do?” Help your child think of lots of ideas that will prepare them for independent thinking and decision-making in a variety of situations.

4. Keep your own anxiety in check

Children have a way of sensing a parent’s emotions. If you think things might go wrong, so will they. Consider practicing controlled breathing before you help your child prepare for going back to school or talk to other parents who’ve been through it.

5. Stay Connected to Nature

One of the toughest things about going back to school is being indoors so much more. Make a list of fun outdoors things you can do after school each day.

4th through 6th grade

By this age, kids are pretty used to the school routine. The toughest part will be helping them adjust to more homework and new social situations.

1. Regulate sleep schedules

Summer with older kids means late nights with fireworks, BBQs or just playing. Kids this age are pretty independent, so strict bedtime rituals often disappear. In the lead-up to back to school, tighten up on bedtimes and wake times so kids don’t start the year exhausted. Ten to 12 hours of sleep are critical for all school-aged kids.

2. Create a safe, study-friendly spot

One fun back to school tip is to spend some time creating a cozy, quiet space that your child will rely on for getting homework done or reading in after school.

3. Set school and personal goals

You can help your child learn the skill of goal-setting, which is necessary for developing grit and just simply getting what you want out of life. Help your child come up with 2-3 goals and smaller steps for achieving those goals.

4. Help your child get organized

Make sure your child has a planner this year. Help your child take advantage of this organizational tool by checking the planner each evening and asking questions that keep the focus on time management.

5. Foster dinner table talk

Use family dinner time as a way to communicate more. Model for your child: “Someone I work with is always negative; it makes the day seem longer. Does that ever happen to you?” Learning that dinner is a safe space to share can help improve communication.

Back to school fears and worries can be managed with a little structure and conversation. The earlier you plan and execute strategies, the easier the summer-to-school transition will be.


Kimberley Moran is the mom of two children and stepmom 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.

August 17, 2018
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Tips & Tricks To Be A Back To School Shopping Pro

Back-to-school shopping can be exciting, fun, stressful, overwhelming, or all of the above. But it doesn’t have to up the stress factor OR take up precious pool time during summer months. With a little preparation and strategic planning, you can develop a back-to-school shopping plan that makes you feel like a total pro.

Here’s what you need to know:

Make a list of your needs

Before you even think about hitting the stores or filling up your online shopping cart for back-to-school shopping, get a pen and paper and make a comprehensive list of all the things you need to buy. It’s best to make a separate list for each child.

The list should be divided into four main categories:

  1. Clothing: If your kids’ school has a uniform policy, then you’ll want to be sure to put the specific items, and numbers and sizes for each on the list. Start with the immediate season — your kids could have a growth spurt and make those long pants for winter months unusable before the first snowflakes even start to fall. No uniform policy? Involve your kids in the clothing shopping process, looking together at what’s trendy and what they like. And don’t forget gym clothes and shoes!
  2. School Supplies: Pens, pencils, notebooks, folders. Backpacks and lunch boxes. Water bottles. If your kids’ school didn’t send a list home at the end of the school year, you may want to give them a call or check with the PTA to see if your kids’ new teachers have a supply list. If so, half your work is already done for you!
  3. Extracurricular Supplies: What are your kids’ after-school activities? Sports, music, art, or something else entirely? What clothes and gear will they need once the school day ends? Add these items to your list.
  4. Tech Items: As your kids get older, they’ll likely have more tech needs, such as a graphing calculator or tablet. These are bigger ticket items, so you may need to budget accordingly.


Develop a shopping plan

Strategic shopping will help save you money and time while preparing for back-to-school season. Do you want to shop mainly online, or mostly in stores? The former has advantages, of course, but when it comes to clothes and shoes, you’ll probably want to make an in-person trip, bringing the kids along so they can try on items to ensure a good fit (and prevent returns).

There may be some items, especially from the school and extracurricular supplies categories, that you want to buy online. Be sure to order well ahead of the back-to-school date so you can be certain you’ll receive everything on time.

Of course, you’ll probably want to cash in on deals if possible. Who doesn’t love to save money? If you’re a member of The Children’s Place My Place Rewards, why not cash in your points for back-to-school shopping? And if you’re shopping online, start by setting up an account on Upromise, which diverts cash-back savings on online purchases into a 529 college savings account for your kids. Shop The Children’s Place online via Upromise and you’ll get 5% cash-back on your purchase!

Finally, if you are taking the kids along with you on shopping trips, be sure to set expectations before you leave home. Let them know what you intend to buy — 1 backpack, 1 lunch box, 5 shirts, 5 shorts or pants, and 2 pairs of shoes, for example — and let them know how you plan to involve them in the shopping process. Will you let them get any backpack they want, for example, or do you want to approve their choice? Is there a limit on the amount of money for each item? Help them understand your expectations so they can have a fun time, too.
Know when to shop

It may take a bit of research, but you’re a mom, and you’ve got this! You’ll want to identify the best times to get deals before the last-minute back-to-school rush. Many stores offer early-bird incentives for shoppers who want to get a jump on their list. Do you know when your state offers tax-free shopping for back-to-school? Depending on where you live, this could save you a significant amount of money, but you should compare the savings on taxes with any sales prices during other times. Shopping for clothing should be done closer to the start of school to avoid your child growing out of their new clothes over the summer months.

Save receipts in one place

Did you buy a Spanish dictionary in June, but your child has decided to switch to French in September? Don’t miss out on a refund by saving all of your back-to-school shopping receipts in one location. Take note of any store return policies. While most major chains have generous return windows, others may not be as flexible. Want to know about The Children’s Place’s returns and exchange policy? You can read it right here.

Back-to-school shopping takes work, but with the right tools and tricks, getting your child prepared to return to school doesn’t have to be overly time-consuming — or stressful! Take your time planning your back-to-school shopping, and you’ll be ready before you know it.

August 10, 2018
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From The Teacher’s Desk: How To Get Kids To Share What They Did At School

It’s so exciting when your child heads off to school each year. Then, after they leave, it can feel kind of strange not to know what your precious one is doing all day long without you. So during the day, you think up lots of questions to ask your kids. The moment of truth comes when you ask them what they did in school today, and they reply…“Nothing.”

We’ve all been there. Believe it or not, it is possible to get your child talking. Here are some simple (and kind of sneaky) strategies from an experienced mom and teacher to get the kids to share what they did at school:

1. Stock up on picture books

Teachers and librarians have known this secret forever. There are picture books out there that address any topic you can think up and for kids at any age. Many kids find it easier to talk about things happening in a book before sharing what happens to them.

As you read the book, make connections with your child. Ask questions like, has this ever happened to you? Or, did this happen to anyone at school today? Here are some great lists of books that can help you develop questions to ask children:

2. Focus on open-ended questions for kids

When you ask children yes or no questions, you’ll get one-word answers. Instead, try asking questions that require your child to talk about feelings and thoughts. A sneaky secret about these questions is that you have to give your kids enough time to think about their answer. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of silence to show them their answer is worth waiting for.

Here are a few tried-and-true open-ended questions to ask your children:

  • When were you bored today?
  • How did you help someone in your class today?
  • What word did your teacher say the most today?
  • If I called your teacher today, what would she tell me about you?
  • What do you hope will happen at school tomorrow? Why?

3. Get to know what happens at school

Don’t assume your child’s day is the same as what your school day was like when you were younger. Pay attention during Open House, read the classroom and school newsletters carefully, and consider volunteering at school. The more you know about your child’s day, the more specific your questions will be. “What song did they play during brain break?” is a lot more detailed than, “How was your day?” These kinds of details trigger memories of moments at school that your kids probably wanted to share with you, but forgot.

4. Invite your child to cook dinner with you

Sometimes, kids need time to decompress and process their day before they share its details with you. So, rather than bombarding them with your well-meaning questions the moment they get in the car after school, wait a few hours. Invite them to cook dinner with you, and use that quality time to talk about the day.

No matter how old your child is, there’s always something to help with in the kitchen. As you chop and your child peels, ask about what kinds of foods they saw during lunch. Did most kids buy their lunch or bring their lunch? Did they see anyone who brought interesting food for lunch?

5. Try an “I share, you share” technique

This is a great way to model talking about your day. In this strategy, you’ll tell something about your day and then your child will tell something. Make this tougher by having your child match something similar to what you shared. For example: “Today I went for a run all the way up our hill and into town. It was exhausting, but I felt great after. How did you exercise your body at school?”

6. Listen for “jump-in” moments

If you’re too busy thinking of questions to ask children, you might miss the opportunity to hear what your child is sharing. Your child is learning to be quiet throughout their day because there are so many children and only one teacher. Letting your child know your ear is ready to listen can be such a relief for your child. As you listen, find ways to jump in to ask your child to elaborate on moments that seem important or emotionally charged.

Remember that as much as you want to learn about your child’s day, your child needs time to process what happened as well. Some kids need to process by talking and some by thinking. Getting to know your child’s processing style is critical to helping them understand what they need. The more you both practice the give and take conversation requires, the easier it will get!

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.

August 8, 2018
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What Do The Stars Say:  August 2018 Horoscopes for Kids

LEO (July 23-August 22)

This summer, Saturn is calling on all confident Leos, cubs and lions alike, to learn more about themselves and become a stronger, better version. And while that’s a good thing for the most part, Mom, remember that your little lion really doesn’t like disappointing their parents. At all. Make sure you let them know you love them just as they are, even when they’re not perfect, because frankly, who is? Here’s where A+ for effort really does count!

VIRGO (August 23-September 22)

It’s likely that your little Virgo will be a bit withdrawn at the beginning of the summer, thanks to Mercury remaining in Leo for a spell. But by the end of July, Venus swings past its home sun sign and encourages little Virgos to seek the company of those they love. And that’s good news for you, Mom, because these children like to help and learn, so crack open those books, science kits, and art supplies. No matter the result, let your overachievers who strive for flawlessness know they are loved just the way they are — messy science and art experiments included.

LIBRA (September 23-October 22)

This summer calls for group activities for little Librans, who will have Saturn paying them a visit. That means your little ones will be called upon to be more cooperative than they usually are. But that’s OK, because your child is the rational listener who likes to hear all perspectives before making any decision. And when they pull you into the fray, Mom, looking for your POV, pay attention because by asking questions in return, you’ll learn about your kiddo’s inner-most thoughts, hopes and fears. Powerful stuff, right?

SCORPIO (October 23-November 22)

If your little Scorpio starts acting up this summer, don’t sweat it, Mom. It could be that they don’t feel appreciated or recognized for the hard work they feel they’re doing, but with Mercury and Venus in Leo this summer, you’ll hear them loud and clear. Your water sign child feels deeply (like all water signs) and that means they can harbor some of those hurts. So ride the tsunami with them and know that the one way to burst any hurt bubble, perceived or real, is through unconditional love, Mom. At the end of the day, that’s all these little people really want.

SAGITTARIUS (November 23-December 21)

Are you planning a trip this summer with your little Sagittarius, Mom? Because if you are, boy are these kids walking with an extra bounce in their step right about now! These Archers like variety and adventure, and they’re never short on energy. So no matter where your travels take you, Mom, make sure you let these kids blow off some serious steam or it’ll be 10 PM and you’ll still be trying to coax them to “sleep.” Exhausting at times? Totally! But think of the fun you’ll have!

CAPRICORN (December 22-January 20)

Hooray! Your little Goat will really start to come into their own leadership style this summer, something that’s been percolating since the beginning of the year. This is really good news, Mom, because your little Capricorn wants to be the best, in just about everything they try. So bolster that self-confidence and throw in a little physical activity this summer with hiking or rock climbing. Those should appeal to their inner, natural climber!

AQUARIUS (January 21-February 19)

Does it seem to you that your fun-loving Aquarius child is being a bit more reserved or even quieter than usual? Don’t fret, Mom, it’s just that your kiddo likely wants to be the observer, more than the spotlight seeker, this summer. They may even be experiencing strong waves of intuition, so let them express their emotions through words, art, or even theatrical “plays” that might give you some insights as to what’s happening in that amazing mind of theirs.

PISCES (February 20-March 19)

These kiddos aren’t yellers, per se, in order to get their way, so why, you might be wondering, is there a shift happening right now? Swap yelling and tantrums out for a little Piscean dramatic flourish, and you have a blossoming actor on your hands. This is how they process change, because Pisces like routine and consistency, but when called upon to change it up, they may just turn to their dramatic side this summer. So encourage that by taking them to see a theatrical show, join the drama club (we’re serious!), or take singing and/or dancing lessons. It’ll be a great release for them and a respite for you, Mom.

ARIES (March 20-April 19)

Mars is back in your little Ram’s sun sign, where it wants to hang out for much of July, which means your kiddo’s confidence should be soaring these days. As with most Aries children, these youngsters love and crave applause. But remember, Mom, that you want to save those high fives for good behavior and a job well done. Especially because these rams can get frustrated quickly and fire hurtful, verbal missives at those they love (it goes with the overconfidence, alas). So count to 20 and be patient because these kids love to learn and with your guiding hand, these lessons add up and take root in someone who can grow to be a well-rounded adult whose inner diplomat will shine through.

TAURUS (April 20-May 21)

Home and family feature strongly in your little Taurean all summer long. If you have a garden, take them outdoors and let them help you out, even if it’s just weeding or admiring the new summer blossoms. Little Oxen love fresh air, the outdoors, sunshine, beauty in most everything they look at, and time spent with family. And if that also includes making their surroundings look prettier, your little helpers are even more fully on board. Live in an apartment? Make sure you have some potted plants or herbs that you tend to with their aid. They’ll love seeing the fruits of their labor in a flower or well-cared for plant.

GEMINI (May 22-June 21)

Your little socialite will enjoy the many festivities and gatherings this summer brings. A young Gemini enjoys a vast array of friends, kind of like their own personal, curated collection of all personalities who are “cool,” in their estimation. Some of those friends though, can feel a little left out if your little Twin decides today’s shiny new bestie isn’t them. That’s where you jump in, Mom, and coach your little communicator in the fine art of active listening and being present, because everyone wants to be friends with your charming little Twin. Who can blame them?

CANCER (June 22-July 22)

Your little one might be drawn to this or that new sparkly toy, book, or bike this month, but keep in mind, it’s Mom’s and Dad’s TLC they want the most. At the end of the day, that “must have” thing they’ve been jonesing after for a while, will likely dissipate as quickly as a summer rain shower. But watching a great movie with you, Mom, alongside a tasty bowl of popcorn or snack, and a snuggle, that never goes out of style. No matter the season.

August 7, 2018
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How to Plan the Ultimate (and Affordable!) Staycation

Everyone needs a vacation—moms more than most. An expensive flight or a long road trip isn’t always doable though, especially with a family. Forget the vacation. Say hi to a staycation, a term you’ve probably heard but might not know much about.

What is a staycation? In short, a “staycation” is a vacation that’s close to home. It has all the fun and bonding of a vacation, but usually involves less money and fewer travel hassles.

The staycation basics

Before you think about the fun stuff a summer staycation can entail (such as relaxation and fewer fights between siblings), consider these planning details.

  • Budget: For some families, a staycation is all about saving money while they explore close to home. For others, a staycation might mean spending a little more on lodging or an attraction since there are no major travel costs.
  • Length: One of the luxuries of a staycation is that it can be as long or short as you wish. Whether you just need a long weekend to recharge, or want to spend a few more days getting reacquainted with your area, both are simple.
  • Sleep: Although it’s an ideal way to save money, a staycation doesn’t necessarily mean staying at home. After all, everyone in the family would likely enjoy burning off some energy in a hotel pool. Even if you do stay at home, that doesn’t mean everyone has to sleep in their own beds—consider camping out in the backyard or even setting up sleeping bags for everyone in the living room.

Family staycation ideas

Now, the fun stuff. Think there’s no way a staycation can be as memorable as a vacation? Consider these great staycation ideas!

Plan a free day

Vacations are often pricey, but a budget staycation is hardly out of the question. While activities vary by location, many areas have free petting farms, historical museums, or factory tours. Depending on family interests, you could also include a park, nature hike, or neighborhood walk in staycation, too.

If your staycation days are flexible, do some searching before deciding on dates—even popular attractions often have free full or reduced-fee days for local residents.

Play tourist

Whether you’ve lived in your town for one year or 15, chances are you often go to the same places and do the same things. There’s nothing wrong with that, but a family staycation gives you the opportunity to enjoy your area in a new way.

What do tourists in your area find interesting? A nearby zoo or children’s museum that you haven’t been to in years, maybe? If nothing comes to mind, do a quick Internet search for your city and see what visitors are saying.

Have fun with food

Vacations are often all about trying new foods, so consider how you can do that with a staycation, too. For your family, maybe that means trying a new type of restaurant or even going to an old favorite and ordering all appetizers for your meal. Staying in can be fun, too, if you’re a little flexible—for kids, nothing beats eating dessert first!

Make memories at home

How long has it been since you’ve had a family movie night? Sometimes picking a movie the whole family can enjoy is a pain, but streaming services make new releases more accessible than ever. Tons of blankets and pillows in the living room and plenty of popcorn can make even an old family favorite seem new.

If your family is always on the go, a simple picnic usually isn’t possible, either. Order in a pizza (don’t make food; this is a staycation!) and eat it outside on paper plates—voila! Instant picnic, and easy clean up, too.

Don’t forget date night

A staycation is perfect for planning a fun date night with your significant other because it’s easy to use a babysitter your kids already know and love. Whether you and your partner stick to the staycation theme and do something out of the ordinary like an escape room or cooking class, or just stick with dinner and a movie, some adult-only time will surely be welcome.

August 3, 2018
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Family Vacation Packing Tips for Planes, Trains, and Cars

The best way to ensure you have a great family vacation? Minimize stress from the get-go, and that means conquering the often-daunting task of packing. As a father of three girls between the ages of two and nine, I’ve learned these lessons the hard way, becoming a vacation packing pro in the process. Here are some of my best tips for packing more efficiently, and for streamlining the process so the journey is easy for everyone involved.

Do your homework

I always like to research what our travel experience is going to be like before we go. How much room are we going to have? Do our seats have access to power outlets? What’s the food situation? Once I have answers to questions like these, I pack accordingly. Many of these answers are available on travel provider websites; for insights to complicated questions (How many changing tables are available?), you always can call the provider directly. Other great resources are online forums such as TripAdvisor and FlyerTalk.

Check the lists twice

One way to make sure you don’t forget anything is to create vacation packing lists before you leave. We usually create one for each traveler, and an additional list for those items that everyone might need. Individual packing lists include basics such as underwear and socks, but also might include rain gear or rain boots (depending on where we’re traveling). Some of the items we usually put on the catch-all travel checklist include Children’s Tylenol, a thermometer, and hair ties.

Keep it simple

Travel essentials for kids? Ha! Most kids are mini hoarders who bring a bunch of random stuff wherever they go. While that behavior can be the impetus for funny Facebook posts, it’s not sustainable when it comes to a family trip. To keep everyone in check, my wife and I have instituted a two-bag policy. Each kid gets one suitcase and one carry-on for her stuff. If their random items don’t fit in those bags, they must leave the stuff at home. Yes, this strategy often causes angst among the younger set. But it also keeps the packing process simple, and guarantees Mom or Dad won’t end up schlepping bags like a Sherpa.

Consider the checkpoints

Security checkpoints are a reality of modern-day travel. They also can be chokepoints for moving through transit hubs with little ones. To streamline the experience, keep all electronic devices in one bag, and send that bag through with a parent. If you’re headed to a cool-weather destination and bringing outerwear, use a parent’s jacket as a sack to hold everyone else’s coats so nothing gets lost. Remember that kids under the age of 12 don’t have to remove their shoes. Be sure to check the Transportation Security Administration website before you go.

Downsize diversions

The best way to keep kids occupied in transit includes a mix of high-tech and no-tech options. We give kids an hour with each category, then require them to switch. On the device front, we cram as many books, audiobooks, television shows, and movies as possible onto an Amazon Kindle, which is smaller and lighter than a tablet. Our no-tech options usually include art projects, word searches, writing in notebooks, and travel board games (the girls love Sequence). We also have become huge fans of Rory’s Story Cubes, a pocket-sized dice game that provides direction to make up stories as a family.

Plan for emergencies

If something can go wrong when you’re in transit with kids, it probably will. That means we all must embrace that famous Boy Scouts motto: Be prepared. In our family, this usually means one of the grownups brings a carry-on full of backups: extra snacks, extra art supplies, an extra power pack for devices, and more. (When the girls were younger, we also stocked this bag with extra diapers and wipes.) Another must-have item I usually bring: Ziploc bags, which are perfect for everything from redistributing snacks and organizing washable crayons to collecting all the garbage the kids produce.

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.

August 1, 2018
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