Parents To Parents
Information from the SavvySource.com
Healthy Choices: Play an Hour a Day
December 6, 2011
With the New Year fast approaching, it is time once again to reassess our lifestyles. This week, Savvy wants to help you get a jump-start on making healthy choices before the holiday craziness ensues. Make a habit of playing outdoors with your little ones this week. This one healthy choice will increase your child's happiness, your sanity and the overall health of the entire family.
No matter the weather, get outside. Fresh air and movement make preschoolers and parents happy. And, yes, it is well worth the significant effort it takes to bundle up all those little limbs. The crisp winter air invigorates the body and mind, and refreshes relationships after days of indoor activities.
Make sure all activities are fun. A walk to the park, playing on the equipment and then a walk home can be a blast or a drag depending on how it is presented and what you do along the way. Instead of just walking, race each other for one minute, walk for three minutes and race for another minute. Bring a bag for collecting trash or treasures. Keep creativity in mind when planning outdoor activities. Instead of just riding bikes in the driveway or on the sidewalk, help your child draw an obstacle course with chalk, and then tally with chalk how many times he makes it around successfully.
Introduce simple, classic games. The games we played as kids are simple, easy to learn and don't require much space or gear. Try four square or hopscotch chalked out on the driveway. Invent a few silly relays on the sidewalk out front. Race your child to the mailbox, hop on one foot all the way back to the house, then turn around and skip back to the mailbox and bear crawl back to the house. Switch up the activity every twenty minutes or so to keep your child's interest.
Include some vigorous movement. This comes naturally to some preschoolers who have a hard time holding still, but is a bear for others who are more sedentary; so keep our child's personality in mind. Additionally, be willing to participate in the action. Introduce your child to jump rope rhymes (start with just jumping back and forth over a rope on the ground and work up to twirling the rope) to get his little heart pumping.
Be sure to laugh. When playing outside, laughter is a must! Don't take the games or exercise too seriously. Giggle together and make time to enjoy. The more fun your little one is having, the longer he will want to stay outside and play.
Information from the SavvySource.com
HEALTHY Choices: Learning to Calm DownMichelle McNally
December 8, 2011
It doesn't take much for young children to become overstimulated. A change in diet, a night or two of restless sleep, or the prospect of seeing well-loved family members can send a child into a frenzy. If the weather is frigid, you're in the car, or you're out in public, how can you help your child calm down?
Going for a walk down the hall or otherwise changing the scenery is a good technique to help your child bring it down a notch. Don't make it a punishment, just redirect your child's energy to walking down a hall or to another part of the house. Giving that energy and restlessness a purpose can also go a long way into soothing him back into himself. Doing jumping jacks, climbing the stairs, running a lap around a house, or stomping feet for a few seconds can also have therapeutic effects.
Watch Things Float
There are all kinds of water-based toys on the market, snow globes, or jars your can make yourself that provide a way to calm down. Shaking a jar with glitter or other objects and watching them float is relaxing to most people, and children will become transfixed. Shaking the snow globe, and then challenging your child to be still until the glitter settles is a way to focus his attention on it.
Items for Manipulating
Squeeze balls and koosh balls can also bring a child to calm. Simply squeezing them and manipulating them can release stress. Hugging a favorite stuffed animal can also have the same effect.
Modeling clay or dough can serve a similar purpose if it's available. Rolling dough, pounding it, and rolling it back up is a purposeful movement that refocuses energy.
Coloring or Painting
Coloring intricate mandalas may soothe an older child, scribbling with crayons or finger painting may center a younger travel. If your child likes to draw, be prepared when you are out by stashing a Doodle Pro or something like it in your car.
Engaging the Sense of Smell
Aromatherapy is another way to help your child calm himself down. Smelling a good smelling (unlit) candle or sachet (think calm scents like lavender) can calm even the most upset, or at least help him focus on deep breaths. If you're both having a "moment" take a minute to light a scented candle and watch the flame as you sit together (never leave a child unattended with a lit candle).
In the car, nothing is better than calm music playing through the speakers. It could be instrumental music arranged for children, or it could be a children's singer with a soft voice (look for albums marketed for bedtime). If the music soothed your child as an infant, it's likely to have a similar effect now that he's older. If you're leaving someplace with a child having a tantrum, put on the music as you drive away. It should soothe his mood (and yours).
Audio books are also soothing to many children. Maybe it's the professional story teller, maybe it's the repetition of hearing their favorite story over and over again, but audio books are a sure winner. Play them in the car or at home. Some children may also like to have a pair of headphones to listen by themselves.
The key to any of these activities is to help your child recognize when he might "need" them. If your child has hit a rough patch where he needs to calm down several times a week or even in one day, present various options before he needs them. In a calm moment, let him know that when he's feeling upset or out of control, he can do a few of the ideas listed above. Again, it's important not to present these things as a punishment, but just as a way to start feeling better. By modeling stress-relieving activities yourself- using a stress ball or doing a set of jumping jacks in the middle of a busy day, you're modeling that it's okay to being overwhelmed and it's okay to take a break. And that's a healthy life choice everyone needs to learn.
Information from the SavvySource.com
Mini History Lessons
Erin Wing - Seattle
November 15, 2011
Are you ready for Thankgiving? (We know the hand turkey from preschool is taped on the fridge, right?) This is the month for making corn cob crafts, enjoying special time with loved ones, and talking turkey; but November is also the perfect time to squeeze in a few history lessons. Seattle has a rich heritage to be thankful for, so gather the little pilgrims (and any out-of-town guests), and kick off the holiday season by taking time to appreciate our past.
Visit Seattle's Version of Plymouth Rock
Over 200 years after the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared the original Thanksgiving feast, the first white settlers in Seattle landed on Alki Beach on a stormy day in November of 1851. This November, bundle up your family for a little picnic style feast at Alki Beach Park, and visit the monument where you can read up about the original Native American residents and the first European settlement in Seattle. And unlike the original settlers, when your hands get cold, you can run across the street for a hot cider or a warm bowl of chowder at Spud Fish and Chips.
Go Back in Time, Downtown
After a brief and chilly stay at Alki point across Elliott Bay, the early Seattle settlers relocated to what is now Pioneer Square. Spend a few hours exploring Downtown Seattle's oldest neighborhood, where cobblestone streets and red brick buildings will make you feel like you've stepped back in time. Fuel up with a sandwich at Grand Central Bakery on 1st Avenue South. (Turkey, anyone?) Then go on a history scavenger hunt and learn about a bounty of events in Seattle history. Spot the can't-miss 19th century Tlingit totem pole in the middle of the square, and walk a few blocks over to the Klondike Gold Rush National Park where you'll find out about Seattle's role in gold mining history. Kids will especially love the panning demonstrations. On Wednesday afternoons, fire truck fans can see many old rigs, and learn about the historic Seattle fires at the Last Resort Fire Department Museum.
Gather Food for Your Feast
If the pilgrims landed in Seattle instead of Plymouth, salmon would have been center stage in the Thanksgiving Feast. So this week, why not pay a visit to the home of our famous flying fish. While you're at Pike Place Market, pick up all you need for your perfect holiday feast and teach the little ones about the history of our city's favorite local attraction. Gather some friends and arrange for a Heritage Tour, or just read up on the history yourself and play tour guide as you walk through the market. Most stalls open early, so arrive in the morning when the crowds are lighter. Oh, and don't forget to snap your family Christmas card photo in front of the colorful and disgusting gum wall in Post Alley!
Study Seattle's Original Residents
November is Native American Heritage Month, and an excellent time to learn more about our area's rich native cultural traditions and history. At the Duwamish Tribe's Longhouse and Cultural Center, you'll learn about the tribe who once established their winter fishing village along the Duwamish River. Admire displays of weaving and beadwork, and check out a traditional Longhouse. You may even meet Chief Seattle's grand-niece, the tribe's chairperson. Or visit the Burke Museum, where you'll find traditional Native American costumes, masks, art, and tools. (Remember, admission is free on the first Thursday of each month!) Also, if you hurry, you can still catch the Northwest Puppet Theater's funny performance of a Trickster Tale from the Makah Tribe. Young adventure seekers will love the story of trickster Qweti, a gluttonous raven who conquers a sea monster from the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Celebrate Thanksgiving the Old-Fashioned Way
The holidays are a time to carry on the traditions of the past. In our modern, fast paced world, teaching kids about the old-school ways is probably more important now than ever. This weekend at Frog Legs Kid's Culinary Academy kids can learn to bake a pie like Grandma did. (Hint: The filling fixings won't come from a can.) The Frog Legs staff will even deliver it to your home on the day before Thanksgiving. Or honor our American heritage through song with Harmonica Project's Sing Thankful performance at Town Hall. You'll sing along to traditional folk songs like Over the River and Through the Woods, Turkey in the Straw, and She'll Be Coming Round the Mountain while you celebrate the spirit of Thanksgiving with Seattle kindie music faves.
Information from the SavvySource.com
Around the World Without Leaving SeattleErin Wing - Seattle
September 12, 2011
Want to pack the kids and travel around the world on a globetrotting adventure? If you can't quite swing the real thing, you and your young travelers can still experience the world as you jet around the Jet City. You'll find plenty of opportunities to immerse yourself in other cultures and maybe even explore your own family heritage at one of our favorite worldly picks. So leave the passport at home and pack light. You're about to embark on a 'round the world adventure! (Hold the jetlag.)
A Taste of Greece
Learn about authentic Greek culture and eat your way through the original Seattle Greek Festival on September 16-18. Kids will especially love watching (and joining in) with the Greek Folk Dancers in the heart of the banquet hall. Located at the St. Demetrios Hall & Cultural Center, you'll find free parking and free admission at this well-loved cultural celebration. Proceeds from the festival benefit local charities, so you can feel good about buying one more piece of baklava.
Bring the bambinos to the annual Festa Italiana Seattle on September 24 and 25 at the Seattle Center's Fisher Plaza. Look for special kid-focused activities, including a performance from the Carter Family Marionettes, Italian song and dance displays, and of course, a pizza toss! The whole family will enjoy watching events like the Bocce tournament and the grape stomp. Grown-ups can learn some culinary pointers from the celebrity chefs on hand. (Enjoy plenty of samples. Yum-o!) Naturally, you'll find an Italian food court as well, so come hungry!
The heart of Seattle's Asian-American population, the International District is the place to immerse yourself in Asian culture. Start with a visit to the Wing Luke Museum, our nation's only museum devoted to the Asian Pacific American experience, your young explorers will especially enjoy the interactive KidPLACE area. After your museum visit, be sure to explore the International District. Don't miss the traditional Chinatown Gate which straddles South King Street at Fifth Avenue South. It was built in 2008 to celebrate the Chinese community in the Seattle Chinatown Historic District. Head to Hing Hay Park, located in the center of the International District, where you can often find musical performances, along with people playing chess and practicing their morning Tai-Chi. Dine at one of the area's many dim sum restaurants, or grab lunch at Seattle's flagship Uwajimaya store, where you can find a wide variety of quick choices in the Village Food Court.
Nordic Heritage Museum
Ballard is the place to learn about Seattle's Scandinavian culture. Visit the Nordic Heritage Museum for story time on the first Tuesday of each month. You'll hear children's tales about Nordic cultures and make a related craft to take home. Explore the rest of the museum and check out lifelike dioramas about Scandinavian immigration and displays of art from Nordic countries. After your visit, head up to Larsen's Original Bakery for a famous Kringle or one of their other mouthwatering Danish treats.
French Fare in Our Fair City
If you'd like to introduce your children to French cuisine but you don't relish the thought of entertaining them through several courses at a fancy French bistro, try this: Visit the Pike Place Market for an Almond Croissant or pain au chocolat at Le Panier. Or promenade down Western and stop in to the Paris Grocery to pick up a selection of French cheeses and fresh baguettes. Take your picnic a few blocks west to Waterfront Park, where you'll enjoy views of the big ships in dry dock; take in our gorgeous city skyline and the Olympic Mountains; and enjoy a kid-friendly taste of France in our very own Emerald City.
Information from the SavvySource.com
Healthy Choices: Getting Reluctant Kids Moving
December 9, 2011
We all hear it all the time: childhood obesity is on the rise! Kids need to move! But what if your kid doesn't want to join the soccer team or just hates the thought of physical activity? We have come up with some ideas to help you get your reluctant kids moving.
If your kid hates sports, try a dance party. This one couldn't be easier. All you have to do is crank up some music with a hard-to-resist beat. You don't even need to set aside time for it. Put a radio in the bathroom and shake your booties while you brush your teeth. Turn on music in the kitchen and work it while you wait for dinner. If you get in the habit of having music playing, your family might get out of the habit of turning on the TV.
If your kid hates loud and fast activities or competition, try yoga. Yoga is everywhere these days, so look around your community. Chances are there are yoga classes somewhere nearby and there are often options that allow kids to get in on the om, whether it's a mom and me class or a class just for kids. There are also plenty of DVDs and podcasts to do at home. Don't forget that if you have a subscription to a video service (like Netflix or Amazon Prime), you can also get DVDs or stream yoga videos from there!
If your kid can't tear himself away from video games, try a different kind of game. There are plenty of games that get kids' little bodies moving. How about a heated game of family charades? Or your kids can flex and bend themselves into pretzels playing something like Twister. If your kid absolutely has to be plugged in, consider investing in video games that get their whole bodies moving. It will still give kids that video game fix, but there are many games that get them off the couch and simulate bowling, tennis, dance, guitar, and more.
If all else fails, be sneaky. There are many ways to get a non-sporty kid moving in ways that kids might not even realize count as moving. You could enlist their help raking leaves, shoveling snow, or sweeping and mopping the floors. Or head to the mall and walk around at a faster pace than usual. Park a little farther away at the grocery store, or challenge your kids to take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator whenever you can. Simply thinking of little ways to get more movement into their daily routine can make a big difference.
No matter what, though, remember that the best way to ensure your kids lead a healthy, active lifestyle is to model that yourself. Try to think of ways that you can move more and your kids might just follow your lead (even if you have to drag them kicking and screaming at first).
Information from the SavvySource.com
Decision Time for Preschool Parents
March 12, 2009
Decision time, traditionally the time frame when college-bound high schoolers learn their admissions fate and then must select a college to attend, has now claimed a new group -- preschool parents who are competing to get their children admitted to preschools in cities across the nation.
Competitive preschool admission -- once an isolated phenomenon of a few highly selective preschools catering to urban elites -- is now the norm as preschool enrollments surge and parents flock to get a spot in one of the country’s many preschools. This new emphasis on preschool is fueled in large part by studies showing that how well a child reads at the end of first grade predicts how well they read in later grades, graduation rates and even their income level as an adult.
“Preschool is the new kindergarten,” states Stacey Boyd, Founder and CEO of The Savvy Source. “Preschool is the beginning of a child’s educational career, and parents naturally want to make informed decisions about their child’s first years of formal education.”
Research has found that great preschools share five critical characteristics:
1. Make sure that the ABCs and 123s are a key part of the school’s learning goals. The very best preschools help ready children advance beyond age norms, but they also nurture children who are behind so they catch up in these early years. Look for: Letter and number materials in the classroom and on the walls; a well-stocked bookcase, tracing paper, maps, clocks, and puzzles.
2. Ask how “play” is woven into the day, particularly imaginative and physical play. Great preschools encourage “pretend play” because research shows that it improves emotional/behavioral skills that predict academic performance later. Look for: a costume corner, art up on the walls, pretend kitchen sets and pairs or small groups of children working together creating and collaborating. Physical play helps children develop gross motor skills which directly correlate with long-term health. Look for: outside play time, room for kids to run around, a climbing structure, tricycles, and balls for children to throw.
3. Ask if children are able to choose some of their activities during the day. Studies show that when children have the chance to make choices at ages 3 or 4, they have better long term social and life outcomes on a variety of measures. Look for: A copy of the school’s schedule that shows windows of time that are dedicated to play and stations where children are able to choose activities.
4. Check for positive/nurturing relationships between teachers and children. A strong, a positive relationship with a teacher is a predictor of children’s cognitive advancement in preschool. Look for: teachers’ smiles encouraging children and strong teacher interaction in the classroom.
5. Look for close alignment with “home values.” Schools should handle social and emotional issues similar to the approach you use at home since consistency is essential in helping preschoolers develop. Ask the teachers or director: if two children always played together and one day one child decides to play with another child and leaves his friend behind, how the teacher might handle that situation. Think about whether that approach is the same one you would have taken.
Don’t fret if admission to the most popular preschools seems impossible. There’s a good chance that there are other equally good – or better – preschools available. In addition, many preschools have waiting pools, not waiting lists. If your child is waitlisted, take action right away.
Step 1: Write a friendly letter in which you:
• Express your disappointment.
• Explain in simple, clear terms why the preschool is such a great fit for your child.
• Explain clearly why other preschools will not be a good fit for your child.
• End with a simple statement about the one or two most impressive quality indicators that put the school at the top of your list.
• Grovel. Express directly the hope that your child will be admitted if a slot opens for any reason at any time.
Step 2: Call or visit the director’s office – make sure you actually speak to the director.
• The phone call is best made the day you get the “no” letter or soon thereafter.
• It’s also very appropriate to mention that you intend to contribute to the school in specific, helpful ways, if true.
• Talk to the director once, send your letter, and then give it a rest. More calls right away may backfire (what director wants that parent in the preschool?).
Step 3: Ask a friend with children in the preschool to call to the director on your child’s behalf.
• The theme: “This child and family are so awesome that we can’t allow them not to be admitted!” If you don’t have friends at the preschool, don’t sweat it. Polite persistence and knowledge of how well the preschool fits your child’s needs may win out.
Step 4: Follow up at the right times.
• An immediate barrage of phone calls may backfire, especially if you are not high on the ultra-politely-assertive scale.
• If you hear nothing for a few weeks, it’s OK to follow up with a quick check to say you are still interested.
• Halfway through the summer and again at the end of summer, check in again.
• Remember, if you cross the line between assertive and annoying/aggressive, you may lose out. But it’s better to try and fail than not try at all.
For complete checklists of what to look for in a school, recommendations of school types, and other key tips, please take a closer look at Savvy Source's Preschool Selection. eBook.
Information from the SavvySource.com
The Many Challenges of Parenting
by Jacque Grillo
Director, Lone Mountain Children's Center
Perhaps one of the greatest challenges of parenthood is dealing with just how rapidly children change, and especially during the early childhood years. It seems that just as you're beginning to get a handle on how to deal with your child as a two year old, he's now a three year old! Not only that, but if you have a second (or third) child you soon discover that your prior experience with a two year old often has little practical benefit for this entirely different child, with her very different style and personality.
Many of the hundreds of parents I've worked with and counseled over more than three decades want so much to do this parenting job just right, that they often set a very high standard for themselves. In striving for perfection they read every book they can find on parenting and early childhood development, and often labor over every decision and intervention. In following this route they all too often miss the bigger picture, and instead get overly focused on each tiny detail of their child's growth and development.
At the other end of the continuum are those parents who go into the experience with little knowledge or understanding, and instead rely almost totally on their instincts. These folks often find themselves acting and behaving toward their children much the same as their own parents did with them. There's no downside to this strategy for those who had the benefit of highly thoughtful and enlightened parenting, but in my experience this is a very small group indeed!
So, as with most of life's big challenges, a balanced approach is usually what works best. For sure educate yourself on the basics of child development to increase your understanding of what your child is experiencing during the various stages of her growth. But resist the inclination to overdo it, which can easily lead to confusion and the paralysis of over analysis. And every parents is almost certainly going to call on their own experience of being raised. But the wise parent will discriminate between those experiences in their own childhood which had a positive impact, and those which are better avoided.
Having a relationship with a child is just like having a relationship with any other person. Each child has his or her own unique personality, temperament, interests, needs and feelings. I always urge parents to try to imagine what their child is experiencing in any situation, and as a first step to honor and be respectful of the child's feelings and position. From the child's perspective, just feeling understood and the experience of a parent's loving empathy is often all that's required. And if all else fails remember the golden rule, and try to respond to your child as you yourself would want to be treated.
Years later what your now adult child is likely to remember and benefit from is not whatever discipline approach you adopted, or theory of child development you adhered to. Instead she will recall that you were present, that you took the time and interest to cultivate an intimate relationship with her, and that you loved her without condition.
Information from the SavvySource.com
5 Ways Your Kids Can Help
Animals in Need of Homes
by Lisa Novick
Kids love pets. Owning them, petting them, and cuddling them. And, so many pets would benefit from kids taking care of them, particularly those in rescue shelters. The challenge is many facilities require volunteers to be at least 16 years old. So if you have younger kids, where do you begin? With the help of a wonderful organization, www.adopt-a-pet.com, a nonprofit that helps get homeless pets into caring homes, we have some great tips about where you should start and how you can follow through. First, double check with your area rescue groups or pet adoption agencies about their age limits for volunteers. Many will let 12-year-olds volunteer. And, younger kids may be allowed, as well, if they are accompanied by a parent. Next, see which of the following ideas are right for you and your kids of all ages:
Donate supplies: Shelters usually have a wish list of supplies they need. Go through your house with your kids to see if you have any items needed at the shelter. These can range from blankets to a computer printer to an old crate and more. Your kids could also decide to use some allowance or holiday money to purchase much-needed grooming supplies. A well-groomed animal is far more likely to be adopted than one that is scruffy.
Work an adoption event: Shelters frequently host adoption events to help animals find homes. Your kids can hand out flyers that publicize an upcoming event at school, around the neighborhood, or during extracurricular activities. At the event itself, kids can help parents attract people to the information table. Older kids can walk, groom -- and yes -- clean up after the animals on site. All necessary parts of caretaking!
Give some TLC: While shelters are safe havens for homeless animals, they can also be stressful places, too. They are foreign environments filled with many anxious and loud animals with a constant flow of strangers. Petting and comforting animals is a wonderful way to ease their anxiety and make your kids feel pretty good at the same time. Adopt-a-pet.com also suggests a few fun twists. Bring a bunch of friends and soothe the animals together. Or, hold a "pet-a-thon" where your kids can get family or friends to sponsor them for each animal they pet. The money raised can either be donated to the shelter or used to purchase needed supplies off of a wish list.
Use technology skills: The internet has revolutionized the pet adoption process. Posting photos and descriptions of animals in need of homes can increase the likelihood of a successful placement. Find out if a local shelter would benefit from your kids' taking video of the animals to bring to life the online listings. Kids (with parent permission) can also do some "social PETworking" by posting a link to a shelter pet on your Facebook page or via TwitterACritter to spread the word about specific pets to hundreds or thousands of people. If you have a personal website, consider adding a link to a pet search site as well.
Adopt a shelter worker: People who work in shelters have extremely difficult jobs with long hours and little or no pay. They often witness challenging circumstances that can be draining and disheartening. Showing them a little appreciation can go a long way. Your kids can stop by to say "thank you," drop off a note, send an email, or bake some treats for a pick-me-up.
Not every kid can bring a pet home. But any kid who is a pet lover can give some care and attention to an animal in need of a home. Start by contacting your local rescue shelter, humane society, or pet rescue program today!