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What Do The Stars Say: Our “Official” Zodiac Signs for Kids

Aries (March 20-April 19)

Be prepared to stay on your toes, Mom! Rams of all ages are full of energy, are pretty independent (OK, stubborn at times) and tend to be on the more adventurous side. Hope you can keep up! These are playful, fun kids who need you to course-correct
when a gentle reminder won't do. On the up side, Aries kids are natural born leaders with dynamic personalities who learn best by doing and by following your good example.

Taurus (April 20-May 21)

Your little Taurus is a gentle charmer who does best with structure, affection, and stability. Working with them on creating a routine or schedule they can count on will help keep things sailing smoothly on the parenting front. And Mom, keep this in your
back pocket: Taureans love little (or big) material rewards for a job well done. Just sayin'!

Gemini (May 22-June 21)

Have an inquisitive, investigative (“I need to know!") little chatterbox on your hands? Welcome to parenting Gemini kids, who are upbeat, adventurous, and freedom-loving. You may notice that one day they're up and the next day, not so much. The trick
to getting your little twin on board is to creatively channel these mood fluctuations. By that, we mean communicating openly and often. The surest way to a Gemini's heart? Through their mind!

Cancer (June 22-July 22)

If you've got a little “dreamer" in your family, chances are they're a Cancer. These are very family-driven children who are protective (some might say even over-protective) of their clan. While affection and a good hug might fix most oops! scenarios,
little Cancerians have been known to turn on the waterworks to get what they want. They're innately sensitive, though, and can read others' emotions well, so keep that in mind before you lose your patience with your soft-hearted little crab.

Leo (July 23-August 22)

The attention-loving, outgoing kid putting on a “show" for you at a dinner party? That's likely a little Leo at their best. The zodiac's little lions are fiery, fierce when they have to be, loyal, and passionate people, even when they're teeny-tiny. Yup,
they're a handful at times, but they're also loving and kind. They've got big hearts and would do just about anything for those they love. Lucky you!

Virgo (August 23-September 22)

Want in on a valuable Virgo secret? Engage these little helpers, and you've got a constant companion. Whether you're cooking in the kitchen, cleaning the garage out, gardening, or even just taking out the garbage, Virgo kids like feeling useful and helpful.
Especially when they're trying to show you that “Hey, I'm a big kid now and I. Can. Do. This!" Be patient with your little detail-oriented perfectionist, because they like things just so...even when the clock is ticking and you're sweating getting
them to school on time. Deep breaths, Mama!

Libra (September 23-October 22)

These are diplomatic kids who are both compassionate and intelligent. You may find your little Libran likes to keep things neat and has an even temperament. So, they're pretty easy going as far as raising them goes - right? Sure, but here's the thing:
they also really don't like making decisions when they feel pressed, and can get down if they feel misunderstood. Mom, keep the lines of communication open with your child and gently teach them that even not making a decision has consequences
— a tough lesson for some Librans of any age.

Scorpio (October 23-November 22)

"Intense" is the word that best describes most Scorpios, no matter their age. They're quick to grasp concepts, hard-working, straightforward and honest (don't ask if you don't want to know because you'll get the straight goods from young Scorpios especially!).
A word to the wise: don't try ignoring a Scorpio as a parenting tactic because what they get up to might give you a new set of grays. A firm, guiding hand will net you better, happier results, Mom!

Sagittarius (November 23-December 21)

One of the most social, high-energy and adaptable signs of the zodiac, your little Sagittarius likes to explore and discover. Some of them do this through athletics, even if they tend to be a little clumsy or accident-prone when younger. But one constant
remains: they like the freedom to discover whatever it is they love, be it arts, science, food, or astronomy, and they need your support and vigilance to do so safely.

Capricorn (December 22-January 20)

Hard-working, steady, responsible beyond their years — you can count on a young Capricorn to hold down the fort, metaphorically speaking. Little Capricorns like to succeed and will work hard to “get it right." When they don't, however, batten down the
fort, for a tempestuous tantrum may blow through, rocking the otherwise peaceful goat. Be there to lend a hand and steady the sails, Mom. It's what your Capricorn needs most.

Aquarius (January 21-February 19)

Curious and clever best describe the Aquarius child. They're good-natured kids who like to learn by discovery and enjoy a good belly laugh. You'll notice they keep an open mind about a lot of things, but they also tend to be a bit shy or introverted,
especially as children. Encourage them to share their thoughts and feelings, but don't push too far, too fast - or you'll end up with a kid who is even more introspective, when what you want to do is encourage more of that kind, freedom-loving spirit.

Pisces (February 20-March 19)

Your little Pisces may be sensitive and keenly attuned to the feelings of others, but they're definitely no pushovers. Other kids might mistake their gentle, non-aggressive personalities as a weakness, but they'd be wrong. Piscean children will stand
up for what they believe in, even if that goes against their peace-loving nature. These are the helpers and natural teachers of the zodiac, especially when it comes to other children. You'll just want to make sure they're not spreading themselves
too thin, or being pushed around, Mama.

July 24, 2018
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Picky Eaters: Tips, Tricks & Meal Ideas from the Lunch Box to the Dinner Table

When your children are picky eaters, prepping school lunches and making evening meals can seem like a real chore. Even the most patient of parents can get frustrated. But don't give up! Experts say that even though picky eaters present some challenges, there are some tips, tricks, and special meal ideas you can try to improve your kids' eating habits.

Here are five of their go-to ideas for appealing to the taste buds of even the pickiest eaters:

INVOLVE PICKY EATERS IN MEAL PLANNING
If your kids are picky eaters, one of the first things to try is to invite them to get actively involved in the meal planning process. Announce a family meeting (and serve snacks!) around the dinner table and ask your kids to brainstorm ideas with you to plan the meals for the week. Kids who are old enough to write can be appointed the "scribe," and given the job of writing down the week's "menu." Another child can help you write the grocery list.

Then, take the kids with you to the grocery store. Turn the shopping trip into fun family time, by giving each child a "find": One can look for the vegetables on the list; another one can look for the dry goods. Bonus? The supermarket trip can also be an opportunity to teach kids about big-picture money concepts, including budgeting, spending and saving, and the differences between wants and needs.

Back at home, have the kids help you put away the groceries. Then, hand out the aprons and put those picky kids to work, helping you cook dinner. According to S. Daniel Ganjian, MD, pediatrician at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California, "When children are more involved, the more they will like to eat." Dr. Ganjian also suggests keeping a list of your picky kids' favorite foods on the refrigerator so they feel like you are mindful of their preferences.

VARY FOOD PREPARATION
It's easy to get into a rut with picky eaters, especially if you're budget and waste-conscious. You just don't want to throw away good food, so you tend to make the items you know your picky kid likes. It's important, though, to change things up. Dr. Ganjian has some tips for introducing new foods, too.

When presenting a new type of food to a picky eater, prepare it in different ways. Talk to your child about how steaming a vegetable creates a different texture than grilling it, for example. Dr. Ganjian recommends putting at least two foods that your picky kid likes on the plate along with the new food. "Tell them they have to leave the new food on their plate and suggest they even lick the food," Ganjian says. He suggests positive reinforcement for children who fulfill these requests.

KEEP FOOD FUN
Visually appealing foods such as brightly-colored fruits and vegetables make great snack foods for your picky eaters. According to researchers, the more colorful the food, the more likely a child is to try it. Be creative: arrange bright cherry tomatoes on a plate with purple carrots and green broccoli florets alongside a tasty dipping sauce. Or get really creative — browse fun plating ideas on Pinterest and turn your kids' lunch or dinner into a clever, fun scene.

PACK AN EXCITING LUNCH IN A FUN LUNCH BOX
Send your picky eaters to school with a meal they look forward to eating. Dr. Ganjian suggests using cookie cutters to make shapes out of sandwiches. Make an effort to vary the accompanying foods you send to keep school lunches exciting. Popcorn and pretzels are a great nutritious snack. So is dried fruit. Make lunches visually appealing as well and send different dips along with fruits and vegetables.

While it may not seem to be a strategy that should affect flavor, keep in mind that kids love what their food is packed in, too. Fun and easy-to-open containers and hip lunch boxes (Glittery unicorns? Flip sequins? Emojis galore? YES, PLEASE!) can go a long way toward encouraging yours kid to eat what's inside.

STAY POSITIVE
When children refuse to eat their food, parents can become frustrated. Dr. Ganjian warns parents to avoid getting into fights about food. "Allow your children to develop good feelings about eating and mealtime," he recommends. If you worry that your picky eaters aren't getting enough nutrition, speak to your pediatrician about multivitamins or supplements. Some reassurance will also help you be less stressed about food.

Having picky kids can be frustrating, but with some time and effort, parents can help children try new foods. So long as parents remain patient— and creative — children will learn to try and appreciate new foods.

July 11, 2018
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Tip For Throwing The Best Birthday Party Ever

Parents whose social schedules are stacked with weekend birthday parties know that these can be total snooze-fests saturated with small talk or surprisingly fun opportunities to relax while the kids have a ball and wear themselves out before bedtime.

Obviously, if you’re the one planning and hosting a party, you’d prefer the latter, so read on for some tips about how you can slam dunk your child’s next birthday bash!

1st birthday

  • Choose a fun theme (unicorn, superhero, mermaid etc.) to make the planning process much easier.
  • Avoid planning the party at typical one-year-old nap-times: 10 AM and 1 PM.
  • Best presents for this age: a large rubber ball; wooden stacking or nesting toys; bath toys; an adorable new outfit or two.

5th or 6th birthday

  • Plan for parents to stay with their kids at the party.
  • Serve a wide array of food and drink: goldfish crackers, string cheese, juice, and strawberries for the kids, as well as crudités, avocado and cucumber rolls, and iced tea for the adults.
  • Host a scavenger hunt with photo clues in envelopes.
  • Best presents for this age: Caldecott-award-winning picture books; art supplies; stomp rockets; a fun backpack or purse.

8th or 9th birthday

  • Expect that parents will drop kids off.
  • Keep the party on the smaller side with 12 or fewer kids.
  • Host a structured game that’s fun but doesn’t require a ton of athletic ability, like capture the flag or a three-legged race.
  • Offer an art project for down-time or for kids who are more introverted. Stringing beads onto rubber cord necklaces, making bookmarks or terrariums, and decorating cookies are all good options.
  • Serve pizza and cupcakes or donuts.
  • Best presents for this age: graphic novels; a blank journal/sketchbook; an unusual board game; a cool baseball cap or watch.

DIY parties are appealing in their quirkiness—there’s no need to splurge on expensive performers or fancy venues. A backyard or local park works just as well, with no wear and tear on your home turf. Don’t worry: You’ve got this!

July 9, 2018
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Rain, Rain, Go Away: Fun Things to Do with Kids on a Rainy Day

Rainy days often cause disappointment and restlessness among children. Real talk? They can be stressful for parents, too: What to do on a rainy day?

The answer: There are plenty of things to do on a rainy day! You just have to be a little creative.

In order to keep the kids happy and active on stormy days, be ready ahead of time with a list of indoor activities for kids that won't require a lot of preparation. A rainy day will fly by when you and your kids are having fun!

Throw a Karaoke Party

When you can't get out of the house and burn some energy by riding bikes or kicking a ball around, gather some costumes, make-up, and flashy accessories and play rock stars. If you don't own a karaoke machine (#familygoals), check with your on-demand options from your cable provider, as many karaoke options are available, or keep it simple (and cheap!) with some online kids' karaoke videos.

If you want to get a little more complicated, set up a round of "Rainy Day Idol," and compete with one another for the winning title. Dance routines and audience participation should always be encouraged.

Create Salt Dough Ornaments Ornaments aren't just for the holidays! Kids can use homemade ornaments to decorate their bedrooms or a tree in the yard. Combine a few simple ingredients — 1 cup salt, 2 cups of flour, and 3/4 cup of water — to make a simple dough that's safe for all ages. You can also divide the dough and add some food coloring.

Use cookie cutters to create fun shapes and various kitchen tools to gently imprint patterns into the dough. Have the children look around for other materials that might make a good pattern in the dough. Before baking, use a drinking straw to make a small hole at the top of the ornament so you can hang it. Bake the ornaments for 30 minutes at 300 degrees. After the salt dough ornaments have cooled, they can also be painted.

Dig out the Craft Supply Bin

You know all those odds and ends you hang onto from started projects? The stamps you bought from the craft store, or the skeins of yarn you swore you would make into a scarf just as soon as you learned how to knit? Drag out those bins and let your kids get creative in any way they want. Fabric, paints, yarn, scrapbooking materials, all of it. If they're short on their own ideas to get started, let them search the web (with your supervision) for fun uses of yarn and fabric and leftover wrapping paper.

Turn Your Living Room into a Movie Theater

When everyone is worn out, close the curtains, turn out the lights, and pop a large vat of popcorn. Work together to choose a family-friendly movie that no one has seen before. Make an exception to the usual rules and let the kids bring drinks into the living room, and if you've got a stash of candy somewhere, let everyone have a small treat while watching. Just make sure to have plenty of napkins on hand. If you have a vinyl tablecloth, you can also lay it out on the floor in case of food and drink messes.

Take the Party Outside

*IF* (and ONLY if!) there is no lightning, put on your raincoats and rain boots (or your swimsuit and flip flops if it's a warm day) and go outside to jump in the puddles. Don't be afraid to make a mess! You can always rinse off with the hose before heading back in. If you have some washable markers or paint, make a design on paper before heading outside, then see what an artistic collaboration with the rain looks like. For preschoolers, bring out the bath toys and let them play with them in the puddles. Any dirt can be easily wiped off.

Parents no longer need to dread rainy days. In fact, with a little planning and armed with a list of creative things to do, you may find yourself looking forward to being rained in with your kids once in awhile.

July 8, 2018
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From The Teacher’s Desk: How To Get Your Kids To Read More

You know it’s good for your kids to read, even if you aren’t exactly sure why. Here are some of the whys: reading helps vocabulary growth, stimulates the imagination, prepares kids to become better writers, and helps them experience the world without going anywhere.

Here are 9 ways to teach a child to read more by entering the book world in different ways:

1. Give kids access to books

Don’t just wait until Grandma gives a few books as a present. Do everything in your power to get books in the hands of your kids. Avoid attaching any labels to them, such as “good” or “bad” — any book a child likes is a good one. Here’s how to get more books in your house without going into debt:

  • Go to the library once a week.
  • Shop thrift store shelves, where books range from 25¢ to $1!
  • Ask people who have older children if they have books they’d like to hand down to your kid.

2. Tell stories with your kids during mealtime

Storytelling is the oldest form of entertainment there is and books are simply stories, written down. Every culture tells stories and every family has some juicy ones to share. Telling stories gives kids the relaxed environment they need to reduce any anxiety they might have about reading. Let kids free-flow their stories with a beginning, middle, and end. One great idea is to start a story and then go around the table, letting each person add to the tale.

3. Combine books and art

When kids read books, they are typically drawn to illustrations. Help your child try art in the style of an illustrator whose work they’ve enjoyed. There’s even a great subscription to help feed your child’s love of art in literature. Called KidArtLit, it’s a monthly box that’s delivered to your door, with a book and art project inside. If your kids are hands-on learners, another subscription box service, The Happy Family, features one book and four different art projects and activities.

4. Don’t put your kids’ books in one place

Kids need to know that there are different books for everything we do. Make sure you have stacks of kids’ cookbooks in the kitchen, art books by an easel, gardening books by the back door, and sports or comics by the television. The more your child sees that there are many different kinds of books for different kinds of reading, the more likely they’ll be to pick up a book out of curiosity.

5. Sneak in reading while cooking

You have to eat meals every day, right? Well, cooking does double or triple duty when it comes to quality family time! Making meals together is a great way for kids to discover easy reading. Let your child choose a meal to make, and then ask them to read the recipe out loud. Reading activities for kids that are authentic are a sneaky — and effective— way to get your kids reading.

6. Read a book, go on a trip

Find books based in places you might be able to visit. Zoos, parks, playgrounds, and museums are all settings for stories — and are places that you can visit, making them come alive for your kids and sparking conversations about the similarities and differences between these places and the books you’ve read.

7. Make your kids read their shows

One fantastic idea to help kids read is to turn on your television’s closed captioning. If they want to watch TV, they have to turn the sound down and read the words. You won’t believe how much better their fluency gets when they have to read quickly.

8. Make use of children’s book lists

There are so many amazing new children’s books being published every year. Lists of books to help kids read are all over the internet. Bookmark sites like Brightly to give you ideas for what kinds of books your child might want to read right now, sorted by age and interest.

9. Share your own reading life with your children

One of the biggest secrets about getting your child to read is to be a reader yourself. When kids see that you love reading and choose different books for different reasons, they see what a real reader looks like and that can make all the difference.

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.

July 7, 2018
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30 Ideas for Keeping Your Kids Busy in the Summer When You Still Have to Work

School's out for the summer! Yay! But now what? You only have one or two weeks of vacation time: How will you keep the kids entertained for the other eight weeks, especially without breaking the bank?

Here are 30 ideas to get you started!

  1. Summer camps can be pricey, but in many areas, parents can find YMCA summer camps for their kids that are affordable — and are just as creative, active, and fun. Think cooking, chemistry, and robotics in addition to the classic archery, volleyball, and basketball. If you have more than one child, ask about sibling discounts.
  2. Call upon extended family. Kids can spend whole weeks with grandparents, aunts, and uncles, all in the name of quality family time. Be thoughtful about your family members' summer schedules, though (yes, even retired grandparents!), and try to coordinate with them in advance. Bonus? If your kids have to travel to get to those family members, travel costs will be lower with advance planning, too!
  3. Swap day-long playdates. Are you a work-from-home parent? Find some friends or colleagues with a similar working lifestyle and suggest taking turns hosting full-day playdates. Your turn Monday; their turn Tuesday. (Now you just need to sign up some more friends for Wednesday-Friday!)
  4. If your work setting is the kind of place where it would be safe and appropriate to have an older child with you occasionally, ask permission to have your own "bring your child to work" days. Convince the powers that be by explaining that your mature child can help you file, make copies, and do other tasks that are approved by your boss.
  5. Set up "shadowing" days. Does your kid want to be the next great fashion designer? How about a veterinarian? Have your child make a list of the professions that interest them most, and see what you can do to have them shadow professionals who work in fascinating fields. Ideas for finding those professionals? Trusted family members, friends, and maybe even your alma mater's alumni network.
  6. Gauge your tween's or teen's interest in training for future jobs, such as babysitting or lifeguarding. The American Red Cross offers babysitting training classes for kids who are 11 or older, and lifeguarding prep for kids 15 and older. Another option? Have your teen hire themselves out as a "mother's helper." This might involve babysitting, but can also include other tasks that help Mom out while she works from home.
  7. Get a job! Older kids can legally work, and a part-time job at a restaurant, ice cream shop, café, or pet store are just a few options for learning key life and work skills, including responsibility, punctuality, and customer service.
  8. Volunteer at a soup kitchen, day care, plant nursery, or animal shelter.
  9. Kids of all ages can practice their entrepreneurial skills by launching their own summer business. Some ideas? Walk dogs or pet sit. Mow lawns. Water plants for neighbors.
  10. Encourage your kids to clean and sort their bedrooms and help organize the garage or basement. How to motivate them? Tell them they can gather all the unwanted stuff, sell it at a yard sale, and keep the profits.
  11. Plan a road trip! Dig out your state map and gather the family around the dinner table. Talk about possible destinations for a weekend getaway, and have the kids help plan the agenda and the budget.
  12. Record a podcast. Does your kid nerd out over animals or cooking or science experiments? Then, they can have fun making their own podcast. Many laptops and desktop computers have the basic software for simple podcasting. New to the medium? There are plenty of kid- and parent-friendly online guides, such as this one. Before you launch it into the world, be sure to talk as a family about how much you want to restrict others' access to your child's podcast.
  13. Create a video blog. Have a kid who's a total ham? Help them start a video blog to talk about their favorite activities or to document their summer adventures. Again, be sure to talk as a family about Internet safety before you publish any material online.
  14. Revive the tradition of having a pen pal. If you remember having a pen pal as a kid, you'll recall how thrilling it was to see an envelope with your name on it in the mailbox. If you're worried about safety, have your child pal up with one of your friend's children to exchange letters.
  15. Participate in a reading challenge. Most public libraries have summer reading programs, and many offer prizes for the most books read. Don't live near a library? Scholastic also has an online summer reading program that runs from May to September.
  16. Encourage your child to become a puzzle master! Math puzzles, like ken-ken and sudoku, can help them keep their skills sharp during summer months.
  17. Consider summer school if there is academic content with which your kids struggle. Even if your child doesn't have any academic challenges, many public schools offer lower cost academic and extracurricular programs.
  18. Tutor other kids. If your child excels in a certain subject, help them find opportunities to share their skills with other children who could benefit.
  19. Create a mural. Whether temporary or permanent, at home or in the community, planning a mural requires teamwork, creativity, and planning.
  20. Use old magazines to make large-scale collages. Younger kids may need your guidance to come up with a theme, and preschool-age children can be encouraged to learn or practice colors by making an all-yellow collage, for example, or a collage with as many letter "A's" as they can find.
  21. Learn origami. If patience isn't your child's strong suit, learning origami could be helpful. If they're really into it, give them a big challenge — like making 1,000 cranes!
  22. Plan a scavenger hunt. Indoors or outdoors, treasure hunts keep kids occupied and entertained and playing together.
  23. Build forts! Use whatever materials you have at hand: pillows and blankets for indoor forts, wood and (safe!) scrap items for outdoor forts.
  24. Write and perform plays with costumes. Some of the kids can also make tickets, a playbill, and snacks.
  25. Create a butterfly-friendly garden. Assign older kids the task of researching the plants that are most likely to attract butterflies, and work with them to find a place in the yard where they can plant the bushes and flowers they've chosen.
  26. Don't forget that old-time favorite: the lemonade stand! Homemade cookies sell well, too!
  27. Give in to screen time. Look for educational apps to help build skills and prepare for the next school year, and establish clear boundaries that let your kids know how much screen time they're allowed on a daily basis.
  28. Go on a hike. Neither you nor your kids have to be avid outdoors-people to enjoy a family hike. Not sure where to go or whether you need any specific gear? Recreation.gov can help answer both questions.
  29. Learn to skateboard. And don't forget the safety gear!
  30. Put on the ultimate fashion show. Pull the fancy clothes off their hangers, dust off the dressy shoes, and let kids go all out to put on the ultimate fashion show for you.
July 6, 2018
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