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Rounded colorful Pencils

Photo Credit : salvatore ventura on Unsplash

These days kids have access to all kinds of activities. If they wanted to, children could have a full-time job just doing all the extra-curricular activities available to them. Of course, there isn’t enough time for kids to participate in all the things they might like to do. So how do you and your kids decide which activities and clubs are best? Here are some ideas for choosing activities that will help your child develop a well-rounded personality.

Get Physical

Some children love physical activity and would love to play all the sports. Others have no interest in running or jumping. In either case, physical activity is an important part of our overall health. You should encourage a child who is looking for a new pastime to explore a sport or other physical skill. Children can play sports, do yoga, take dance lessons, or do any number of other activities to get moving and make friends. Best of all, they’ll learn valuable lessons about building a strong healthy body and the importance of taking physical care of themselves.

Be Creative

If your child is already involved in a sport and wants to be more active, you can encourage them to explore a creative outlet. Perhaps their school has an art club. Or maybe there are painting classes at the local library. In many cases, young people have creative interests that they can pursue on their own. For instance, if your son has expressed an interest in learning to sew, encourage him to check out some YouTube videos or online tutorials for beginners. If your daughter wants to learn to draw, there are lots of resources online that she can use to build her skills in her spare time. Because creative activities use different parts of the brain than typical intellectual activities, you’ll be building your children’s capacity to think in new and interesting ways.

Think Outside the Classroom

Students spend plenty of time doing science, math, and history in school. However, for students who have a special interest in these subjects, there are additional opportunities to pursue their intellectual passions. Debate club and Model U.N. are ideal activities for students who love to think and engage deeply on serious questions. Math and science clubs are great places to explore an interest in space or chemistry. Perhaps your child’s school has a robotics club where they can learn to build machines and even participate in competitions. Learning doesn’t have to be limited to the classroom.

The trick is to mix and match activities so that children are exposed to lots of different skills and possibilities. Often, young people don’t know what they’ll love until they try it. You’ll never know if your son loves painting until he picks up a paintbrush. The more you can expose young people to, the better chance they’ll have to uncover what they truly love. And along the way, they’ll learn to appreciate all the different passions they possess.

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Students in Class Room

Photo Credit : NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Students love getting a break from school. Winter break is no exception. It’s great to have a few weeks off to play with friends and watch TV. However, when it’s time to go back, that few weeks can make it hard for kids to transition back into a structured learning environment. Here are a few tips for a successful transition back to school after a break.

Go to Bed on Time

One of the perks of a break is that children often get to stay up a little later than they usually would at night. There’s nothing wrong with giving your children a little extra fun time before bed. However, in order to get them back in the habit of getting a good night’s sleep, and waking up ready to learn, you can have them go to bed and wake up at their regular time for the last few days of their break. This way, the first day back at school isn’t the first day that they’re struggling to wake up early again. By getting them back in the groove for a few days beforehand, they’ll have an easier time managing the school day and coursework and classmates and all the other things that come with being back at school.

Replenish School Supplies

One way to help get students excited to go back (and help their teachers in the process) is to make sure your students have everything they need to participate in class. Do your children need new folders or notebooks? How about their pencils, pens, and art supplies? Are they running out of the tissues or paper towels they use in class? You can inquire with your child’s teacher(s) about what they might need. Then you and your student can go school shopping together. By bringing this beginning-of-the-year ritual into the middle of the year, you help create an atmosphere of excitement and expectation for your students.

Catch Up on Schoolwork

Breaks are important. But they’re also an opportunity to catch up on work that we may have fallen behind on. Are there any classes or concepts that your student could use some extra help with? The winter break is a great time to get a little extra practice. If your child is struggling to keep up with reading in class, you can incorporate holiday reading practice into your winter break. This helps to keep the season festive while also making it productive. If your child’s teacher sent home any optional practice work, encourage them to take a few minutes every day to work on the skills they need to improve. They can also use their schoolbooks to review and do practice work. It’s not necessary to do schoolwork during a break, but it can be a good way to stay sharp for the return to class.

Finally, in the days before school starts, talk to your child about their goals for the next semester. What do they plan to accomplish? What are the things they want to improve? Are there clubs or activities they want to join? By helping your child to think about going back to school as an opportunity, you prepare them to make the most of the return to the classroom.

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Homemade Gifts for Teachers

Many children want to give their teacher a gift for the holidays. While this is a great idea and one that should be encouraged, a “World’s Best Teacher” mug or glass is not always the best choice. Just about every teacher will tell you that they already have several of these. So, what should you give them to show your appreciation for all their hard work? The options may be a little closer to the heart for most.

Gift cards

Starbucks Gift Card

It's hard to go wrong with a gift card. These can be purchased at local grocery stores for just about dollar amount imaginable. And getting one from their favorite stores, coffee shops, or teacher supply outlets will go a long way to show that you care.

Homemade gifts and cards

We have found that many teachers love to receive anything homemade or crafted by their students. Your child’s artwork, a handwritten card, or a crafted Christmas ornament with your child’s name and the year on it are items that teachers can keep year after year to remember their students and all the lives they have touched along the way.

School supplies for all

Another great idea is to get them much-needed school supplies. Many teachers pay for classroom materials like lined paper, pencils, sticky notes, pens, erasers, and much more themselves. So, gifts of this nature are often much needed and will always be appreciated. If you don’t know what to get exactly a gift card to bookstores and teacher supply stores is a great place to start.

Donations in their name

For schools or teachers who aren’t in need of such items for their classrooms, they often suggest giving donations in their name instead. Find out what causes your teacher supports or cares about and donate either time, money, or specific items to that cause using your teacher’s name. This will show your teacher that you care and are willing to help others who may be less fortunate and also gives that teacher an opportunity to be a part of that giving.

Thank you letters or notes

Sometimes the simplest of gifts can be the most precious. The job of a teacher can often be a thankless one that is taken for granted. Writing a letter or short note can be just the thing to brighten their day and make all their hard work this year worth it. A heartfelt “thank you” can say much more even the most expensive gift.

Ask just about any experienced teacher what their favorite gifts over the years have been and they will tell you about ones that came from the heart. The ones that really mean something are ones that were well thought out, painstakingly constructed by little hands, and given out of honor and a heart of appreciation, not from obligation. This year, instead of another coffee mug, give your teacher something that matters a little more.

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Wright Flyer Aircraft model

On this day, December 17, 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright took their first or maiden flight in an aircraft they had designed together. And while it is unknown if this was the first actual flight ever made in history, it was done in the first ever patented aircraft, the Wright Flyer. The brothers went on to make further inventions and additions to aviation technology, leading the way for all future aviators.

History of Wright Brothers’ Day

President Dwight D. Eisenhower is the one responsible for creating this codified holiday. As such, it is commemorated each year and marked on government calendars but is not classified an actual government holiday. President Eisenhower declared on September 24, 1959, that December 17th should forevermore be celebrated, honoring the experiments of the Wright brothers and all others who have contributed to aviation history and technology.

How to Celebrate Wright Brothers’ Day

Wright Brother’s inventions

Since that time, every U. S. President has made an annual proclamation, honoring the Wright brothers and their endeavors in flight as well as inviting all Americans to do the same. Furthermore, Washington D. C. holds the Wright Brothers Dinner each year where the Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy is awarded

Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, where that maiden flight was taken also celebrates the day with similar festivities, as does Dayton, Ohio, the brothers’ hometown. Many schools are known are to hold special activities that focus on aviation and its history, some even take field trips to the closest aviation museums. Other institutions or programs hold various luncheons and dinners to honor these pioneers of flight.

Individually, many decide to celebrate in their own way by going to museums that focus on aviation, going to the airport, attending air shows, taking a flight, or even taking flight lessons. It may seem to you that this old looking plane the Wright brothers flew wasn’t all that great, especially compared to what airplanes and crafts that are flown nowadays. However, you have to remember that at the time, there was nothing else like this. This was the cutting edge of technology, a dream of the future at the time.

Can you imagine what aviation would look like today if these two brothers hadn’t created the Wright Flyer and made that flight? While their craft is not the only kind that was manufactured, nor were they the only ones experimenting with such technology, their efforts led the way for inventions and aviation leaders all over the globe. This day is meant to remember and honor those efforts, understanding that actions and discoveries made today will someday be a part of history.

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Math learning toy numbers counting

It’s common to hear preschoolers reciting alphabet letters and even numbers. Many can even recite or “count” to 10 on their own. But is this really counting? Does it actually teach them anything about math? Recent research shows that this ability is simply memorization and doesn’t teach them to count or learn differences in amount any more than reciting the alphabet teaches phonic sounds. So, what should you teach them?

Give Real Examples

To actually learn any real math skills at a young age, a child needs to experience actual number sense. This means that instead of showing them the number, having them trace it and repeat its sound, they are given one object, like a toy car. Then give them another one and so on, counting as you add or subtract. When they begin to learn in real life situations like this, they begin equating a specific situation or setting to a specific number.

Sort

By age two, toddlers have the ability to sort or organize and even subitize. This helps to teach them comparisons and form the ideas of patterns and relationships. You will see them separate toy animals by kind, color, or size. By teaching your child to count and recognize the number of objects in those small groups and how they relate to one another, you are building their scientific inquiry skills.

Measure

Measurement Concept

This is continued even more when we draw on a child’s attraction with size. As we work with them to form relationships of bigger and smaller, we can begin to introduce the concepts of measurement, such as miles, inches, and/or pounds. This is one of the best and simplest ways to teach your child about math, as we use size constantly in every day life. And this helps to create a more compounded sense of logic and reasoning in children.

Speak of Space

Also important to early math skills is the language of space. Words like behind, over, under, in, circle, deep, next, front, triangle etc., not only allow children to understand the world around them better but also teach them spatial representation, giving them a foundation of math vocabulary terms. Make sure to point out spatial relationships when reading books, walking through the park, or even eating dinner.

Picture Patterns

Patterns are largely impactful on a young child’s mathematic abilities as well. Things like dance, visual art and movement patterns such as stop, drop, and roll help children to learn about making predictions, guessing and understanding what may come next and using reasoning skills, which is the basis of multiplication.

Encourage

The most important factor for any child learning math, or any subject for that matter, is a can-do attitude. If a child is to learn and master any skill, they need to be encouraged that they have what it takes to succeed. This attitude of self-efficacy that is learned as a child will most often carry them through their entire life, no matter what situation or subject they are dealing with. Be a constant support and place of encouragement to help them along.

Give your child the skills to succeed, give them encouragement and you will constantly be surprised at the accomplishments they can make. Sometimes, it all begins with just a few math lessons taught at a young age.

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Christmas card day

Sending festive Christmas cards of season’s greeting is an age-old tradition amongst millions of families worldwide. We make a list and check it twice, ensuring that no one is forgotten or left out. Whether it’s the classic jingles of Christmas past or modern electronically sent messages, we want to make sure they receive it before Christmas Day.

History of Christmas Card Day

However, this unofficial holiday is not celebrated on this day just make sure you get your cards out to the mailbox on time. On December 9, 1843, Sir Henry Cole of England designed the first commercial Christmas Card. It showed a family raising a toast together. It was produced by J. C. Horsley, who went on to produce many more of Cole and other’s holiday cards. From there, a lithograph firm, Prang and Mayer, started creating and selling Christmas cards by the masses. By 1880, they were producing over five million cards a year.

Many of those first cards are now collector’s items and are sold for thousands of dollars at auctions. The British Museum houses Queen Mary’s early 1900s collection of them. Today, Christmas cards are made in millions of designs and themes. Some are more traditional and include the popular “Merry Christmas” messages with an image of jolly old Saint Nicolas. While others may steer in a more religious direction, quoting bible verses or blessings with wise men standing around a holy child in a manger. Still others, for those who may not celebrate Christmas, are sent wishing season’s greetings and best wishes for a new year.

How to Celebrate Christmas Card Day

Happy Holiday Card

Whatever your preference, today is the day to remember your Christmas card list and work on getting them out to your loved ones. It's always nice to be able to make handmade cards if you have the time. Grab your glue stick, markers, and glitter and get to creating. This can be an amazingly fun activity for your children as well. Maybe start a family tradition of making cards.

If you aren’t that crafty or don’t feel you have the time, there are always pre-made cards to send and even e-cards. These are sent electronically and take hardly any time at all. Plus, you don’t have to worry about missing the mailman or not making it to its recipient on time. However, nothing beats the real thing and this day is the perfect time to get those cards ready and in the mail before the last day of mail service arrives.

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Holiday Books for Children

Photo Credit : Annie Spratt via Unsplash

The holidays are great. There’s time spent with family, and for many people, time away from work. For school-age children, there’s lots and lots of time away from school. It can be a challenge to fill all those free hours with productive activities. One of the ways you can use this time is to reinforce your children’s reading habits with books that are fun and relevant for the holidays. Here are a few that offer some great lessons for this time of year.

My Two Holidays: A Hanukkah and Christmas Story

During any time of year, it can be difficult for children who have different backgrounds and traditions than their friends. But especially during the holidays, it’s sometimes hard for children to explain and understand why their family’s traditions may be different than everyone else’s. In this book, a little boy learns to appreciate having a family that participates in multiple traditions. Over the course of the book he finds a way to help his friends appreciate this, too.

My First Kwanzaa

This is a book for beginning readers to learn about celebration of Kwanzaa. Kwanzaa is an African-American holiday that falls during the Christmas season in the United States. It uses Swahili principles to celebrate family and community during a seven-day period each year. This year, Kwanzaa begins on December 26th and ends on January 1st. The book explains all of the principles of family and community that comprise the seven days of Kwanzaa. It tells the story of how one little girl’s family recognizes the holiday and spends time together during their favorite time of year.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

This is a classic Christmas story that parents and children can enjoy together. It tells the story of the Grinch, a cranky character who lives outside the tiny town of Whoville. The people of Whoville just adore their Christmas celebrations and go all out every year decorating and singing songs. When the Grinch decides to steal their Christmas joy, he sets off on an adventure that leads him to learn a warm lesson about the spirit of the holidays.

Construction Site on Christmas Night

This one is a straightforward feel-good story that connects with children’s imaginations to tell a story about friendship. Sherry Dusky Rinker has added this holiday story to her best-selling Construction Site collection to teach an important message about helping others during the holidays. Parents and children can both enjoy this wonderfully illustrated and rhythmically narrated book about forklifts helping their firetruck friends during the most wonderful time of the year.

There are a number of books that children can enjoy during the holidays. And many are written so that young readers can handle them on their own. Whether you’re picking a book to challenge a beginning reader, or selecting something to read together, a trip to your local bookstore can be a great way to keep curious minds occupied during the winter holidays.

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Rubik's Cube Gift

Photo Credit : NeONBRAND via Unsplash

One of the best parts of the holiday season is the joy of giving gifts to friends and loved ones. For kids, this often means lots of new toys. But there are other gifts that kids can enjoy and that can also teach valuable skills. By gifting thoughtfully this holiday season, you can offer the children on your gift list valuable lessons along with hours of fun. Here are some ideas.

Puzzle books

Much like building blocks, puzzle books provide lots of options for fun and games in a small inexpensive package. You can find collections of puzzles that range from Sudoku to mazes to brain teasers of all kinds. And they come in different levels for kids and adults of all ages. You can give simple connect-the-dots books to very young children, or more challenging puzzles and logic problems to older children. The beauty of these books is that one book can contain dozens of different puzzles to occupy a curious mind.

3-D Puzzles

Everyone loves a good jigsaw puzzle. But if you want to provide a more interesting challenge, 3-D puzzles are a great chance to practice spatial reasoning skills in a fun and exciting way. The classic example of a 3-D puzzle is the Rubic’s Cube. Though most of us will never quite master this old-school puzzle, there are lots of new spins on the concept that offer varying levels of difficulty. You can buy 3-D puzzles with just a few pieces, or more complex ones that have to be completely disassembled and put back together. Either way, these new-age puzzles are a stimulating and challenging upgrade on the beloved classic.

Music lessons

This one is a little less conventional, but very versatile. Is there an instrument your child would like to learn to play? If you have a son who wants to play guitar, or a daughter who’d like to play drums, music lessons are an excellent investment. Learning to play an instrument has all sorts of benefits for brain development and reasoning skills. And learning a new skill can open up all sorts of future opportunities. If someday your son or daughter wants to join the school band or even start of band of their own, they’ll be well on their way to mastering the skills they need.

Book series

A great way to encourage reading is to introduce your children to a book series that they can get invested in and follow for a long time. Whether it’s young adult drama, science fiction, fantasy, or mystery, a good series holds a reader’s attention for years at a time. This ensures that your young reader will always have something they’re looking forward to reading. Then, as they wait for the next installment of their favorite series, you can introduce them to similar options to keep them occupied. This is how finding a good series can pay off with a love of reading that lasts for years.

Of course, there are lots of other educational gifts that you can give the children in your life. If you know a child who’s interested in science, microscopes and telescopes make great gifts. Perhaps you know a young person who loves to dance and would appreciate dance lessons. The possibilities are endless. The trick is to think beyond the usual list of toys and gadgets to give something that will genuinely enhance the lives of a child in the months and years to come.

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How To Teach Persistence

At some point, every student finds a subject, an activity, or a situation that they no longer want to continue. It could be the new book they have been assigned in class or maybe the algebra problems they were sent home with. Maybe it’s a sport or musical activity. But we can’t let them simply quit. This is their education and it's too important. A little persistence can go a long way, but how you can get your middle or high school student to understand that and put it to good use?

Don’t Rush to the Rescue

As parents, it is difficult to see our children struggling, no matter what it is. And often times we find it tempting to come to their rescue and make it all better. However, that doesn’t teach them persistence. We all learn by trial and error. That means we have to give them a chance to fail and succeed on their own.

So instead of doing it for them, work through it together and ask them to do the thinking. If they never learn to do it on their own, they will never be able to solve their own problems. Life, in general, isn’t always fair or easy. Letting them work through these situations will teach them to persevere even if life isn’t being gentle.

Don’t Rush to the Rescue

Talk About it

Sometimes the best way to help them understand is to just talk about it with them. Hearing about the importance of persistence often can greatly benefit your child. If they are constantly hearing phrases such as, “I can do it,” “I won’t quit,” or “It’s always hardest the first time,” it’s much easier for them face problems with your positive voice in their heads. You might think of a family persistence mantra to say often, such as “Mistakes won’t get us down.”

Give them a Gentle Nudge

Pushing your child can be difficult for both parents and children, but it can make a world of difference. As creatures of habit, many of us, including our students, tend to stay in our comfort zone without straying too far. However, you can help your child by pushing them to try just a little harder, practice a little longer, and make it a little more challenging.

The key is to not push too hard or make expectations too great. A child will easily get discouraged and the lesson will be lost to them if are never able to reach your goals. A simple kitchen timer can work wonders here. For example, instead of only practicing their band instrument for 10 minutes, add another five minutes. And when they complain or grumble about it, remind them of their past achievements and give them encouragement.

When your child is feeling defeated and begins to say he can’t, make sure to remind him of all the times that he has. Use your family persistence mantra and give her a little nudge in the right direction. Your child needs to hear this from you and will benefit greatly from these persistence lessons that will last a lifetime.

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