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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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Baby Saying No

As parents, we always want our children to be happy. This can make it difficult to say No when necessary. However, teaching children to tolerate not getting their way is one of the most important lessons we teach as parents. Though it can be a struggle, there are some simple strategies that can make it easier to set boundaries with young children.

Give Them Clear Options

When children are learning to communicate, it’s natural to ask them questions and let them formulate their own answers. However, this can make it more difficult to say No when children express a desire for something they shouldn’t have. For instance, if you ask your son what he wants for dinner, and he says ice cream, then you have to say No and explain that ice cream isn’t an option.

An alternative is to start out by giving children a choice between the available options. Instead of saying, “What do you want for dinner,” you can say “Would you rather have potatoes or spaghetti?” This gives your child control over what he eats, but sets reasonable boundaries about what he can choose.

Set a Clear Time Limit

Anyone who’s ever argued with a child knows that children can go on forever trying to get their way. A five year-old can give you 73 reasons why he should be allowed to wear his superhero pajamas to school. If you don’t set limits, the arguments will never end. This is why it’s important to communicate when decisions have to be made and stick to your deadlines.

If you’re in the store picking out clothes, and your daughter asks for something she can’t have, make clear that you only have a certain amount of time to shop. Whatever you agree on in the next ten minutes is what you’ll buy. If you can’t agree on anything, then you’re going home with nothing. Don’t let children’s protests hold you hostage. It’s okay to walk away.

Enforce Consequences

Perhaps the hardest part of saying No is sticking with it when children insist on getting their way. Even when our children behave poorly, we ultimately want them to be happy. But it’s important to set expectations, and let young children know that there are consequences for their behavior. So if you tell your son that he has to behave or he doesn’t get to watch TV, be sure to stick to it. Don’t back down when you see how bored he is. No matter our age, we all learn from the consequences of our decisions. Even when it makes them unhappy, children learn valuable lessons from the small privileges they lose for misbehaving.

While saying No to our children may always be a challenge, it is vital to teach children to respect the boundaries that we set for them. By having a plan for how to approach this difficult lesson, we can make it much easier to impart the values we want our children to have.

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Puppy gift for Christmas

Photo Credit : Rhaul V. Alva via Unsplash

One of the most requested Christmas presents among children every year is a new puppy. Pets teach children important lessons and growing up with a loving companion animal can be a great experience for any child. However, as adorable as pets can be, it’s important to consider the long-term requirements of adopting a pet. When Christmas morning has passed and the excitement of the holiday season is over, the everyday care of a pet can be a daunting experience. Here are some things to consider if you’re thinking of getting a pet as a Christmas present.

Can You Afford It?

Adopting a pet doesn’t have to be expensive, but it can be. It’s possible to find someone who’s pet has recently had puppies or kittens, and who’s happy to send them to a good home for free. However, more often, adoption shelters have fees that help to cover the cost of caring for the animals in the shelter and facilitating their adoptions. Adopting a dog from a shelter can run between $100 and $150. Cats tend to be slightly less expensive.

Once you have your new pet at home, there are costs associated with caring for them long term. The Anti-Cruelty Society advises that you should plan to spend about $1,500 in the first year of caring for a dog. This includes vaccines, veterinary appointments, food, bowls, toys, bedding, and miscellaneous supplies. There are lots of hidden costs in bringing a new pet into the home.

Is Your Home Pet-Friendly?

One of the biggest surprises people encounter in adopting a pet is the number of ways a cat or dog finds to eat, chew, scratch, stain, or otherwise damage everyday household items. Nearly everyone who brings home a new dog, for instance, will have to replace a pair of shoes or favorite scarf that the pup decided to sample one day while he was bored.

Dealing with this inevitable learning curve requires patience. Are you prepared to teach your pet their new surroundings, and train them over time in what to do and not to do? Can you deal with a pet that occasionally marks the house, and needs time to be housebroken? These are things to consider before you bring an adorable animal friend home for the holidays.

Do You Have Time for a Pet?

Cats are largely self-sufficient creatures. They don’t need to be walked and they don’t necessarily want to play fetch. Dogs are a different animal. Most breeds require some measure of exercise and they’ll need your help to get it. Can you commit to walking a pet on a regular basis? Will you or your child have energy to play with him at the end of the day? Remember that pets who are socialized properly are happier and healthier and show fewer destructive behaviors. This means that the more exercise your pup gets, the less likely she is to nibble on your favorite pair of shoes.

Of course, adopting a pet can be a wonderful experience at any time of year. The key is simply to think it through and make sure you’re prepared for the responsibility. Though it seems like an especially sweet gesture at Christmas, bringing home a family pet is a big commitment. As long as you approach it thoughtfully, it can also be thoroughly rewarding.

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Girl says thank you

In this age of entitlement and materialism, it can be difficult to feel that your child appreciates or is grateful for anything. However, there are some ways to try and curb this unattractive fad in your home and raise children that not only say thank you but also mean it.

Be a Model of Gratitude

It’s a proven fact that children learn from experiences. The same is true when it comes to their attitudes. If you as a parent are continually showing an attitude of gratitude and thankfulness, your children are likely to do the same. However, if you spend a lot of time talking about or making money, shopping, watching TV, etc., you are showing them that you value materials more than thankfulness. They are likely to follow your example.

Reduce Exposure to Contrasting Models

You are not the only person who your child learns from. Materialistic models are found by the multitudes on TV and online. If your child is exposed to these models on a regular basis, they will begin to emulate their ideas and values, ones that you may not want in your home. It is suggested that children 2 and up have no more than two hours of screen time per day (TV, computer, video game, and smartphone included).

And when they do come into contact with those values be there to talk about the intentions of the ad and how unrealistic many of them are. This will help to discourage your child’s desire to be that way or want a certain product.

Encourage Intrinsic Values

Happy Family

Research has shown that intrinsic values starkly contrast those that are taught by materialism. This means that if you teach your child to understand and appreciate ideas like having good and healthy relationships, trying to leave the world a better place, and following your own interests and curiosity for personal growth they will be less likely to think selfishly about themselves and what they want and do not have.

Expose them to Suffering and Beauty

When your children are allowed to see true suffering and beauty, they begin to see what they have in comparison and be grateful. Take your child to the local soup kitchen and serve a meal, volunteer your family for mission projects where your children will see others in need. You will be amazed at what they learn from those experiences.

True and deep beauty can have much of the same effect. Museums and nature are great places to start when looking for beauty. This can open their eyes to some of the vastness of the world and life. Typically, this sense of awe and wonder can start a conversation about gratefulness and contentment.

It’s easy to get caught up in all the many advertisements screaming for our attention and that of our children. However, we must remember that the impact of those may have a resounding effect on our youngsters, one that isn’t very desirous. Try at least one of these tips in your home and see how your child is affected. Start small and work your way up. You may just find that your child is genuinely more appreciative.

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