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Family Time/Activities for Kids

Keeping the Winter Blues (and Colds) at Bay…

Jan-07, 2019

Ice Skaters

Photo Credit: Henry Hemming from Flickr

Winter can be a trying time for school-age children and parents alike. The weather is colder and there just doesn’t seem to be as many fun options for time or energy to be spent. We often find ourselves stuck in the same routines, and to be honest, they are boring. The winter blues are knocking on the door and so is cold and flu season. But don’t despair. There are ways to keep both away with these fun and healthy tips for your home and family besides just remembering to wash your hands.

Healthy breakfast

Breakfast has long been known as the most important meal of the day. And for kids in school, it's even more essential. However, just as important as eating is what they are eating. Sugar filled pop-tarts and cocoa puffs will not sustain them until lunchtime and are sure to create the wrong kind of energy need for their demanding day.

Instead, whip up some eggs or, for days when you are running a little late, make sure to have some hardboiled ones in the fridge already. Yogurt topped with fruit, or on the side, is another great source of vitamins and proteins. Add some whole grains or cottage cheese and they are good to go for a full day of learning.

Exercise

Just because its colder outside doesn’t mean your child has an excuse to sit in front of a screen for long hours. Exercise is still a crucial part of their health and well-being. Not only does it keep them physically healthy but, according to many studies, has a very positive outlook on their emotional well-being and brain development.

Don’t be afraid to let your little ones enjoy the cold air outdoors. Spending time in nature, as long as they are bundled up, helps to prevent sleep deprivation, allows them to de-stress, and keeps up their immune system. A quick pre-dinner walk, ice skating, sledding, or a short trip to the park are all fun and safe outdoor activities for kiddos who need a little natural daylight and exercise.

Change up the lunches

School Children Lunch Box

Photo Credit: Melissa from Flickr

At this point in the school year, it's common to find that your child is only eating about half of their lunches each day at school. This is most likely just because they are bored with their choices. If this is the case in your home, it may be time to switch some things up a bit. Instead of the normal PB&J, try some crackers with ham and cheese. Add in some healthy fruits and veggies and maybe a small treat for a well-rounded meal.

Kids also seem to love compartmentalized meals. This allows them to create their own sandwiches from choices you send or instead of being overwhelmed by one or two large objects, they are presented with five or six smaller items such as carrots, celery, yogurt, and even a cookie.


Christmas Card Day

Dec-07, 2018

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.


Thanksgiving Games for the Family

Nov-20, 2018

Thanksgiving Games

Thanksgiving is a fabulous holiday. It’s an excuse to get together with your family and friends to eat, spend time with all that you are thankful for. However, most family Thanksgiving dinners are, well, just that. They are dinners and sometimes a little on the boring side. And for those of us with children, it can seem even more boring. This year, why not make it a little different? Here are some family-friendly activities and games for every age and to put a fun spin on your large gatherings.

Traffic Yam

Supplies: metal spoons, uncooked yams, and painter’ tape (or anything to make a straight line on the floor)

Each player is given a yam and a metal spoon. The yam is placed on the floor on one end of the room. The players must then race to get their yam across the room to your tape line and back to the starting line. The yam can only be moved with the spoon. No hands. Whoever gets across the finish line first wins. Players can play defense as well and push other people’s yams.

The Feather Float

Supplies: Small, light feathers

This one is super simple and can be played individually or on teams. Each player gets a feather. Players must blow their feather in the air, keeping it afloat for as long as possible. You could also give a time limit and the players have to keep their feather in the air for that amount of time.

The Mayflower

Thanksgiving Games

Supplies: small corks, fake flowers, Large under the bed containers, plastic straws (optional)

Fill the under the bed container with water. Attach a fake flower to the corks and give one to every player. To play, each person must place their cork in the water at one end of the container and then blow it to the other end. The first boat or cork to reach the other end wins. Players can use a plastic straw to blow if they would like.

Corn to the Copia

Supplies: empty cornucopia, small fake corn, blindfold

This is a team game with two players on each team. One player stands on one side of the room and gets blindfolded and the empty cornucopia. The other stands about ten or so feet away and has a bucket of the fake corn. The player with the corn must hike the corn like a football to their teammate with the cornucopia. The idea is for the blindfolded player to catch the corn as it is hiked.

Try out a few of these ideas for your Thanksgiving gathering this year to make things a little more fun and encouraging for all. From all of us here at Best Brains, Happy Thanksgiving.


The Flipped Classroom is Turning Teaching Upside Down

Sep-18, 2018

Flipped Classroom

Photo Credit: Pan xiaozhen on Unsplash

If you have children in middle or high school, you may have heard of the flipped classroom. It works in lots of different ways, but the main idea is that teachers actually assign instructional lessons for students to do at home, so that they can devote class time to more complex and personalized tasks. Instead of presenting new material to students in class, and then assigning practice exercises for them to do at home, teachers can supply video or other lessons for students to review on their own as homework. That leaves much more time for questions, individual instruction, and other forms of follow-up in class.

While the concept is not new , the idea of the flipped classroom has become much more popular in recent years. This is due in part to two chemistry teachers in Colorado who stumbled onto how well it worked for their students. Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams teach at Woodland Park High School. The teachers noticed that when they posted online copies of their lectures for absent students to review at home, students who had been in class also took advantage of the opportunity to review the lessons they had already learned . This gave the teachers the idea to take advantage of students’ ability to cover new material on their own at home. If the students could get the basic idea by themselves, there would be more time in class to collaborate, ask questions, tackle advanced projects, and engage the material in other ways. Eventually, the teachers posted their lessons online, inviting others to try the method in their own classrooms. It has proven to be popular in schools across the country and at lots of grade levels.

It is interesting to note that the flipped classroom is a lot like what happens in many liberal arts classes at the college level. Students are assigned reading to do on their own before class. Then they meet with professors to discuss the reading and to challenge their own and others’ sense of what the material means and what it says about the world. Of course, it may be easier to imagine college students tackling material on their own. Bergmann, Sams, and others have proven that, with the right tools, students in middle school are also perfectly capable of picking up a lot of basic material by themselves.

One possible long-term benefit of this trend is that students in high school and earlier can gain exposure to college-style instruction. Students who are used to learning new material on their own may have an easier time adjusting to college courses where a good portion of instructional material is read and processed outside the classroom. Because of this, the flipped classroom may be helping to bring K-12 classrooms more in line with the culture of the colleges and universities they are preparing their students to enter.


Top 4 Most Educational Family Vacations

Apr-20, 2018

Top 4 Most Educational Family Vacations

Choosing a family vacation destination can be stressful for just about anyone. Picking something that suits everyone in your family is tough to do even for small families. Finding something that they all enjoy and learn from is even more difficult. However, there are a few places that we recommend visiting at least once. These sites will both amaze and delight, as well as be extremely educational.

Monterey Bay Aquarium-Monterey, California

Monterey Bay Aquarium-Monterey

This is one of the most kid friendly aquariums in the world. With over 35,000 plant and animal species inside, it also offers one of the largest varieties. Nearly 200 of the indoor exhibits are equipped with features that encourage children to push buttons, flip switches, slide panels, and rhythmic sounding and interactive directional signs. The aquarium also houses a 7,000 square foot Splash Zone that incorporates all kinds of hands on features for children eight and under. Here they can experience live animals and water play, as well as many more activities to teach them about aquatic life and survival.

Plimoth Plantation-Massachusetts

Plimoth Plantation-Massachusetts

Most likely your children have already learned about Plimoth Rock, the Mayflower, and the first Thanksgiving. This place allows them to see it for themselves. They will learn how the pilgrims lived and how they interacted with their neighbors, the Wampanoag Indians. Take part in the Thanksgiving meal that started it all. And don’t forget to take a tour of the Mayflower II, an exact replica of the original ship that brought them across the seas.

Children’s Museum of Indianapolis-Indianapolis, IN

Children’s Museum of Indianapolis

The is the largest children’s museum in the country, with over 472,900 square feet of fun features and exhibits for children of all ages. Check out the home of National Geographic’s Treasures of Earth where children get to excavate for dinosaur bones and other hidden gems in three separate archaeology sites. This large building also lets children learn about China’s Terra Cotta Warriors, Captain Kidd’s shipwreck, ancient Egyptian tombs, and much more all with fun and interactive games and activities. For older children, there are centers dedicated to children whose lives’ have changed the world such as Anne Frank, Ryan White, and Ruby Bridges and so much more.

Mount Vernon and Monticello-Charlottesville, Virginia

Mount Vernon and Monticello-Charlottesville

Learning about our nation’s great history and some of its most honored founders is a great way to spend your family vacation. One of the most popular and rewarding places to do this at the homes of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Visit their historic plantations with tours of their homes, reconstructed slave quarters, exhibits and extensive gardens. Enjoy hands on activities for children, video presentations, and the Griffin Discovery Room. And not far away are the homes of two other founding fathers, if you are ready for more history.

Here at Best Brains, we think education should be involved in everything we do. Family vacations are no different. Be sure to visit these places and search for more along the way.


Halloween Day

Oct-29, 2017

halloween-day

Did you get your costume ready? It’s time to get your Halloween costume ready and prepare yourself with loads of chocolates to celebrate Halloween on October 31st, 2017. Halloween is celebrated the day before All Saints' Day. It’s a beautiful time for every kid to get dressed up in their favorite costume, carve the pumpkin, play pranks, and go trick or treating.

But where did Halloween come from and why do we celebrate it?

Halloween means "holy evening" or "hallowed evening." It is believed that Halloween is derived from ancient Celtic harvest festival of Samhain. The pre-medieval Celtics divided their year into two parts. One is “the light half” which this period consists of summer and spring where daylight is long and short night time. The second is “the dark half” which consists of winter and autumn where daylight is shorter and nights are longer. Celtics celebrated Samhain at the end of the first half of the year. But some people say that Halloween is an independent Christian festival.

Celtics believed that the boundary between the dead and living will be blurred on the night before the New Year. People celebrated this festival by wearing animal skins, animal heads, and telling the stories of their fortunes. Roman Empire has conquered most of Celtics regions and in the later years, they combine Celtics festivals with their festivals.

The pope announced that November 1 is the day Christians honor saints and martyrs and later it becomes a popular holiday, All Saints' Day. Following this holiday is All Souls' Day where the dead are remembered and people pray for the dead.

In the later years, Halloween becomes secular festival and one of the favorite festivals for kids. People visit their neighborhoods and ask for food and make it a tradition called “trick or treating”. Halloween is observed by most people in the world.

Some of the important facts about Halloween:

jack-O-lanterns

Masks: People wear masks during Halloween, pagans used to wear a mask to scare evils and it is combined with Halloween tradition. It was believed by pagans by wearing animal heads wandering spirits assume that they are also spirits and let them go free.

Jack O’ Lantern: this tradition brought to America by Irish immigrants. People originally used to carve scary faces on turnips. Later, they started carving on pumpkins, because of the lesser price of pumpkins.

Baking Halloween cake: Bakers try to keep a lot of details in the Halloween cakes. The prominent detail is a thimble, which is a sign of bad luck.

halloween-kids-best-brains-blog

Hiding knives: People in Germany hid knives in fear because they thought that the spirits may injure them with the knives.

Beans of the Dead:   It’s a favorite Halloween recipe for Italians called Fave de Morti. It’s a macaroon, cookies.