Make Certain That Your Children Receive Proper Oral Health Care From an Early Age

According to an online article written by Dr. Anthony Mendicino, DDS and Laurie Turner Finger, RDH in February, 2018, forty percent of children may have tooth decay before they enter kindergarten.  That’s a very surprising statistic. The article goes on to say: “Tooth decay or Early Childhood Caries (ECC) is the single most common chronic childhood disease affecting children today in the US. Tooth decay can compromise the health, development and quality of life in children both short and long term.”

In fact, tooth decay can cause many problems such as depression and dental infections and abscesses. The critical issue is to start teaching your children early about preventing tooth decay.   The authors suggest the following:

1.    Have your children visit a dentist early so that the dentist can begin monitoring tooth development.

2.    Do not allow your baby to fall asleep sucking on a bottle with milk or any sugary liquid.   Sugar coats the teeth and causes tooth decay.

3.    Be sure to begin brushing your children’s teeth as soon as one emerges.  Do not wait until they have many teeth to brush them and be sure to teach your children how to brush them too.

4.    Investigate whether your drinking water has fluoride.  If not, consider some type of supplements.  Fluoride has been shown to reduce tooth decay. 

To read the entire article, CLICK HERE.

Some Fun & Interesting Websites for Your Children this Summer

During the summer months, parents struggle to find interesting and creative activities for their children.  The last thing we want them doing is playing mindless video games all day long.  Finding alternatives for them that are fun and still allow them to use the computer can be challenging.  We have done the work for you and found some interesting websites that we believe your children will truly enjoy and learn from:

1.    Science News for Children https://www.sciencenewsforstudents.org/ - This is an interesting and challenging website full of facts that children will enjoy.

2.     Cool math http://www.coolmath.com/ - There are so many cool math lessons, your children will be amazed.

3.    Is it possible for your child to become a genius? “Make Me a Genius” claims that it can http://www.makemegenius.com/

4.    National Geographic for kids https://kids.nationalgeographic.com/ - This website provides almost everything your child will ever want to know about animals, nature, countries, etc.

5.    Games that help children learn http://thekidzpage.com/ - All kinds of puzzles and other games are featured that will keep your child learning and having fun.

6.    How stuff works https://www.howstuffworks.com/ - This website provides answers to many questions in a variety of areas.  Nothing boring here!

7.    The Old Farmer’s Almanac for Kids  http://www.almanac4kids.com/ - So much fun information for your children that they cannot possibly get bored.

The Benefits of Sensory Activities for Toddlers and Young Children

The knowledge of the importance of sensory play for children has grown significantly over the years.   Sensory activities are those that stimulate one or all of the five senses - touch, taste, smell, sight, and sound. Young children, especially babies and toddlers, are constantly learning by utilizing their senses, which makes sensory play a great learning apparatus as well as a stress reliever.

These activities encourage children to use different processes in their play, including motor skills, aid in their development of these skills, and refine their sensory thresholds, which basically means they give children information as to how they are affected by the things around them.  They also assist in helping them to understand their bodies’ reaction to certain stimulants.   What does a lemon taste like? What does squeezing this object do? What does spinning in circles for a long time do? Can I shake this and make a noise?  Why does it make a noise?  Sensory  play answers these and many other related questions your children may have.

Some fun (and relatively mess free) sensory play ideas are:

1.    Frozen shaving cream

2.    Homemade shakers (jars with rice, beans, nuts, or seeds)

3.    Lights and shadows (different light intensities and their effects on shadows)

4.    Homemade, edible finger paints

5.    Sensory bin (a large container -big enough for a toddler- and one that is inside and smaller containing different objects of varying shapes, colors and sizes. The big bin traps all the mess!)

Along with being a way for children to learn more about their reactions to different stimuli, sensory play can also provide a great deal of comfort.  Squeezing play dough or playing with shakers can be very cathartic, so keep them on hand for the next time your children need a quick source of distraction and comfort.

There are many internet sites with sensory activities.  Try this one to start as it breaks down sensory activities based on each specific sense that is the focus: CLICK HERE

Raising Your Children to be Problem Solvers

Among the skills parents should teach their children, problem solving is often overlooked.  A person’s ability to solve problems quickly and effectively plays a huge part in the way he handles challenges, and ultimately, the path of his life.  Providing children with the tools and experiences to be proficient problem solvers prepares them for the problems that will inevitably show up in their personal and professional lives.

In her online article for the PBS website, “I Figured it Out!”: Helping Kids Become Tenacious Problem Solvers”, author Deborah Farmer Kris gives some expert advice in nurturing our children’s imagination and creativity.   First and foremost, we must encourage our children’s curiosity.  When they are young, children constantly are asking the question “Why?”   Instead of reacting to this question as a burden, parents should enthusiastically respond “Let’s find out!”  By responding in this manner, we show that their question is to be respected and that there are ways to find out answers. 

Second, Ms. Kris recommends that we do not give answers to a problem to our children right away or step in too quickly to resolve it.  We should help them reframe or clarify the problem and search for answers.  Ask such questions as “Have you tried this already?” or “Tell me more about the situation.”  Help them to think about the challenge and come up with their own solutions.  I’m a lawyer and law schools use the Socratic method to train students to think critically.  A law professor always asks questions of the students, forcing them to think critically and search for the right arguments.

Third, honor their “tenacity”, the ability to continue trying to find solutions for a problem rather than giving up easily.  You can say, for example, “That was a challenging puzzle, but you stayed with it.”

Fourth, help your children to be good observers.  Encourage them to look for clues or search around for material needed for a project.  Spending time in nature is a good way to develop good observation skills as they can use their five senses. 

To read the full article, click here.

Small Ways to Boost Your Children’s Self Esteem

I have written before about boosting your child’s self-esteem, but today I will be discussing a few additional points as this is such an important subject.  Self-esteem is simply how a child feels about himself.  It is vital that children feel good about themselves because it makes them better problem solvers, better learners, and more appreciative of themselves and the people around them.

Since self-esteem is so integral to a child’s development, here are a few things you can do to boost his confidence.

1.    Do not pile on the praise. This may seem counterintuitive to what you believe.  Simply praising your child for everything he does is not helpful.  And, research shows that it may backfire.  Concentrate on praising effort.   Your praise may appear fake if a child knows that he did not perform well so instead, acknowledge when your child is making mistakes and encourage him to keep trying!

2.    Let your child make mistakes.  When teaching a child something new, be patient and monitor what she does.  Then, let her do it on her own so that she can learn from her mistakes.  Too often, as parents, we do not want our child to perform mediocrely.  How can she learn if she does not keep trying to do better.  

3.    Encourage independence. Once your child knows the difference between right and wrong and understands the consequences that come with certain decisions, let her make some for herself.  Often, this can show how much you trust her and respect her choices.

4.    Do not give harsh criticism.  I often hear parents calling their children names such as “lazy”, “messy”, “disorganized”, etc. What we speak over our children will come to pass.  They will begin to think about themselves just as you described.  So, select descriptive words that are encouraging rather than discouraging and look for things that they do right, rather than what they have done wrong.

Though these steps may seem simple, following them will go a long way in building healthy self-esteem in your children.

Kids Health provides more information about the benefits of high self-esteem in children and what you can do.  Read the entire article by CLICKING HERE.

Helping Your Children Develop Social Maturity

When it comes to our children’s performance in school, as parents, we are almost always focused on their academic progress.  Although that of course is critical, it is also beneficial for us to ensure that they are getting the most out of their schooling, and that includes being socially proficient. Whether your children have issues with their social development or are just naturally shy, there are several ways that parents can teach social maturity.

It is best to start teaching your children social graces before they start school.  For example, you can take them to the park where they can interact with other children while you sit, observe, and possibly strike up a chat with their parents. You should be looking for a few things as your children mingle with others: are they sharing, actively involved, and laughing?  These are crucial in friendly interactions.  Use what you have observed to talk with your children about how they can improve their behavior during the next social event.

If your children are in school but still having challenges interacting with their peers, consider how to assist them.  Students are surrounded by the same people every day and having a familiar environment helps many children thrive socially.   A great way for your children to actively meet new people and socialize with friends, even in a new environment, is for them to join a club.  Clubs are smaller groups of people who have similar interests and who interact with each other based on these common interests.  My sons participated in many different clubs based on their interests, such as sports clubs, chess clubs, church clubs and music clubs.  And, they developed long lasting friendships that exist to this day from those clubs.

Another way for children to develop socially is working with others on homework.  Often, teachers assign projects to a small group of students.  The students in those small groups then get together and plan and prepare what to do for each project.  By helping each other, friendships are developed.  My nephew is in 9th grade and one of his teachers often assigns group projects.  He and his fellow students meet frequently and after they have dedicated time to their project, my sister takes the group out for a treat.  All during this time, social skills are being developed, as well as academic skills.

Parents have tremendous influences on their children’s lives.  When speaking with your friends, family members, or even strangers, be sure to display kindness, compassion, and confidence.  Children learn best from what they see and hear. Be the best example to your children that you can be!

A well-rounded child is not just one who excels academically.  Social growth and maturity are key to a child’s ultimate success in life as well. 

Help your Children Plan and Prepare for their Exams this Exam Season

It is exam season and your children might either be freaking out about it or blissfully oblivious as their exam dates get closer with each passing day.  Regardless of their state of mind right now, exam season is always a stressful time.  Parents can play a significant role in relieving some of that stress by assisting their children to prepare for their exams.

Before beginning, parents must understand the type of learner their children are.  Of course, each child is different.  Is she a visual or hands-on learner?  Is he a mix of both? Does she work better alone or in a group? How long is his attention span? Talk with each of them about it and come up with methods for exam preparations that are the most conducive to his learning style(s), not yours.

Many parents, including me, assist their children before a test. Some use flashcards, others ask probing questions, while others make mock exams - the effectiveness of each technique is completely determined by each child’s learning style.

I have written some tips in a couple of articles on this blog about spending time with your children and being involved when they do their homework, that can be applied to helping your children study for exams.  The most important takeaways from these blogs should be scheduling, location and your overall involvement.  Studying in a clear - somewhat secluded- area helps your children focus on their tasks without distraction.  Planning a schedule to study for each class gives a sense of order during a time that may be chaotic for most students. Parents can assist by checking up on your children every once in a while to observe their progress or assist with a problem.  This shows them that you care about their academics and it gives them the chance to share what they have learned. It also gives them the opportunity to ask questions on what they may not thoroughly understand yet.

That is not all! According to an article on the U.S. Department of Education’s website, one of the best things you can do for your children is to talk to them about their exams. Find out what subjects they are confident and not-so confident in. Speak with them about the areas they think they need to focus on. Speak with their teachers and present these inquiries to them, too.  Use your newfound data to help your children set up a study plan that strengthens their weaknesses and enhances their strengths.

Be sure to confirm with their teachers the correct exam dates and ensure that they start studying well in advance.  Children can get confused about dates, especially if they have not written them down.  Also, having a longer time span for them to go over the information for each subject, gives your children a better chance of actually learning and comprehending the information rather than just memorizing it.  Comprehension signifies that the information can be applied to many different situations; however, memorization makes it much harder to do so.

Parents know what exam season is like. We all have been through it. We can use our experiences, along with these tips, to ensure that our children handle studying and taking exams better than we did and are more successful.  You can find the U.S Department of Education’s article for more tips on how to help your children by clicking here.

The Best Way to Prepare Your Children Academically for Preschool is by Reading

From the day of their birth, children are learning languages, and the words that they are exposed to for the first few years of their lives influence their language development and academic performance for the years to come.  When preparing your children for preschool, it is critical that you take time out of each day to read to and with them.

For generations, parents have read stories to their young children and for good reason - the developmental benefits are endless. The transition from daycare to preschool will be much easier when reading has been a part of their daily routine.  

When you read a story, don’t just read it quickly as if it is a task that needs to be finished right away.  Take your time.  Talk about the meaning of a word if it is a new word.  Encourage your children to look at the pictures on each page.  As a children’s author, I know the importance that not only words have on each page in a book, but also the pictures.  I hired a children’s artist to design and paint the pictures, according to my direction and input.  Pictures convey a specific message so I wanted to ensure that each picture told the message that I wanted the child to know and learn. 

In addition to looking at the pictures and discussing them, a parent should make reading fun by changing the intonation of his voice.  Also, if it is a woman speaking, try to speak as a woman.  The same thing if it is a man.  Make a silly voice if the character is a funny character.  I think you get the gist of what I am trying to convey. 

Try not to limit your reading times to bed time.  If there is a lull in the afternoon on a weekend, pull out a book to read to your children.   There should always be plenty of books in each room in the house.   Or, ask one of your children to find a book that you can read to them. 

We parents want our children to be prepared for preschool.  The foundation of literacy is the most important and lasting foundation that you can give them.

Getting Your Children Interested in STEM

STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering, and math - are commonly disliked subjects among children, especially girls.   However, that does not have to be so.  By introducing our children to real life applications, we parents can get them to be amazed at the wonders that come alive and have them asking for more. 

In her online blog titled How to Get Your Kids Interested in STEM (Without Forcing it on Them), writer Melanie Pinola gives some very good advice for some real life applications:

1.  Introduce food science while cooking, as children will love to eat the results.  In fact, there are many books that have edible science experiments for children. 

2. While shopping with your children or doing banking, encourage them to participate with numbers.  For example, you can compare the costs of similar store items and have them do simple calculations in their heads.  Also, talk to them about how interest works.  I assisted my sons with opening up their own savings accounts with their accumulated allowance money when they were very young and talked with them about how a bank will pay them interest on their money.   Have them calculate what the interest is every month.

3. Play STEM games with your children and buy them STEM toys.  One of the most favored STEM toys, especially with boys, are the Lego building blocks.  One of my nephews only wants gifts of these blocks and his bedroom is filled with all the different building projects he has completed. 

4. Watch STEM shows, especially those that cater to children. 

STEM subjects are critical to the development of our economy and will provide our children with good-paying, secure careers.  So, let’s start them at a young age learning and appreciating all that they can offer.

Read her entire blog by CLICKING HERE.

Be Sure To Celebrate the Week of the Young Child: April 16-20, 2018

Every year, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) celebrates young children and learning, and this week April 16-20, 2018 is dedicated to just that.  According to the NAEYC, the reason that a week is set aside annually is “to focus public attention on the needs of young children and their families and to recognize the early childhood programs and services that meet those needs.”

Local communities throughout the United States hold events for the celebration.  Events vary from a fun hat day to an ice cream social, a parade in a school and even a trip to the mayor’s office.   Importantly, the focus is on young children learning.

In the U. S. Virgin Islands where I live, I always participate in some way.  This year, I will be visiting an elementary school.  I have been asked to read a local  story to children and join in a special hat parade. 

Where ever you reside, please consider volunteering your time and talents to make this a special time for children in your area.  Whenever I visit a classroom or school to participate in an activity, I find that the children are always excited to have a special visitor who thinks they are important.  I am certain that it will be a blessing for you too, as it is for me!

Keep Your Children Active as Activity Works Out the Body and the Brain

The benefits of physical activity on the body are plentiful and well known. The more you move your body, the healthier you will be and the risk of weight related health issues – such as diabetes and heart disease - diminishes. For children, physical activity promotes healthy growth, improves fitness levels, and boosts self-esteem. Did you also know all the benefits exercise can have on a child’s mind?

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), students who are physically active actually had better grades, school performance, memories, and classroom behavior.  The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services  recommends 60 minutes of physical exercise each day. Many parents mistakenly believe that if their children participate in physical activities, they will have less time for homework and other school assignments and be too tired to perform their best in school.  Importantly, however, the scientific research data does not support this way of thinking.

Physical activity has been a very helpful as well in improving the behavior of children with behavioral disorders.  In a study to determine whether an aerobic cybercycling  physical education curriculum could benefit children who had behavioral health disorders, the findings showed that this type of aerobic physical activity benefitted children significantly.   A cybercycle is a stationary bike - similar to the ones we see at the gym - with a screen to give the illusion of an outdoor environment.   Often children with these disorders are not encouraged to participate in exercising and thus, suffer greatly as a result.

There are so many benefits that come from living an active lifestyle.  Promoting healthy behaviors today guarantees a better life for your children in their future.

For more reading, CLICK HERE or CLICK HERE.

Teaching Biblical Financial Principles to Your Children

The concepts of handling money according to biblical principles are very important ones and parents often do not take the time to teach their children about them.  Proverbs 22:6 talks about training your child in the way he should go so that when he grows up, he will not depart from it.  Training your child also involves teaching these financial principles so that he can be a wise steward.  But, of course, you must know and follow these principles yourselves as parents.

In his online article entitled 10 Financial Principles That Are Biblical, author George Fooshee addresses principles that Christians need to know to properly manage their financial resources. Too many Christians are mired in debt and have become slaves to their out of control spending habits.  Knowing and then obeying God’s Word in regard to money management are critical to financial freedom.

The 10 financial principles are:

1. Understand that God is your source.  Philippians 4:19,  Proverbs 8:20-21, and 2 Cor. 9:8 all refer to God being our source - financial and otherwise.  The Christian walk involves putting our trust in Him to provide for our needs.

2. Tithing should be a regular part of our giving.  As Christians, we all understand that we should tithe.  Proverbs 3:9 instructs us to honor God with our first fruits.  But, do we really do it or do we make excuses and believe that God will understand why we have not tithed regularly?  God’s Word should be alive and something that we adhere to every day not just when we want to.

3. Prepare and plan.   Handling our money wisely involves preparation and planning. 

4. Save.

5. Keep out of debt.

6. Do not co-sign.

7. Keep records and set a budget.  From young, children should be taught how to budget. When giving an allowance to your children, for example, enforce the categories of “save”, “spend”, and “tithe” so they learn and put these concepts into practice.

8. Be content with what you have.  For example, if you know that you cannot afford a new vehicle at this time, do not shop for one.  Be content with what you have until you are truly able to afford a new or different one.

9. Work hard.

10. Seek Godly counsel.

As I have said many times before in my blogs, your children are observing what you do and listening to what you say every day.  Training or raising  successful children first starts with you as parents.   

To read more of this article, click here.

Raising Happy Children

We have all seen those faces: a child with an angry look – his face turned away from you, his lips pursed, his eyes glaring.  Perhaps the child did not get what he wanted.  Or, perhaps he woke up grouchy from a nap and saw no reason to change his demeanor or behavior and decided to take things out on you.  Children can be taught from a young age how to become happy and not remain in a negative mood.  According to Proverbs 15:13, a happy heart makes the face cheerful.

Helping your children develop happy hearts depends first and foremost on you having a happy heart yourself.  It is critical that as Christians, adults memorize scripture so that we lean on what the Bible has to say about our circumstances rather than on what the world throws at us.  The Word of God can be an extremely positive force in our lives if we speak and apply it. 

Try selecting various Bible verses that are easy for your children to memorize and write them on index cards or type them and hang them up throughout your house.  There are many websites that have lists of simple Bible verses so you can select one verse each week on which to focus.  Make it fun to memorize a verse and incorporate it in your everyday discussions.  The more you make the verses a part of their everyday lives, the more these verses will become a part of their thinking and behavior.   A quick reading of a verse will not do it.  It takes time and energy to change thoughts and behavior – it is not a one time, quick fix.

Also, have your children look at themselves in a mirror when they are happy and then when they are angry.  Help them to connect their facial expressions and outward physical behavior to their feelings.   Smiling is an indication of happiness and actually makes a person more attractive.  More people are drawn to smiling, friendly persons and the opposite is true as well.  Remember that your children typically will copy your behaviors.  Have you smiled at your children lately or have they seen you smiling?  You cannot expect your children to smile if you are not smiling at or with them!

Laughter is very important in maintaining a happy heart.  Children love to laugh – it’s part of their nature.  My sons enjoyed all kinds of silly jokes and riddles from when they were both small.  I bought joke books and cartoon books for them to read, to encourage laughter.  (Of course, that also encouraged reading.) They both have a wonderful, positive sense of humor today! Another way to make them laugh is spending time with them doing fun activities.  When was the last time that you played with and tickled your child?

These are some practical suggestions to raising happy children.  I encourage you to take the time to implement some so that you see more cheerful faces around your home!

Teaching Conflict Resolution to Your Children

Conflicts between children in a family are common and  parents should be prepared to handle them and be models of resolution skills.  Three words are important in dealing with sibling conflicts: talk, listen, and resolve.

First, parents should encourage their children to calm down and then talk about their problem.  An emotionally charged child will not be able to reason and react properly.  Helping your child to calm down allows a child to manage his emotions and then be able to begin the process toward resolving the dispute.  A child can do several things to calm down: walk away and return a few minutes later; count to 10 (or any number), slowly; or write down his emotions.

Once your children are calm, you can begin the process of talking to each of them.  You may choose to talk to them together or apart.  You will have to decide which way would achieve the best results. Encourage each child to tell his side of the story and how he felt and be honest while doing so. For example, helping your child to talk about his feelings is important: “I felt embarrassed when he called me a name in front of my friend so I hit him.”

While your child is talking, actively do step 2 which is listening to what is being said.  Do not prejudge until you have heard both sides.  If you are not sure what your child is trying to convey, repeat or rephrase his statements until you have grasped a full understanding.  This will take time and patience, but believe me, it is well worth it. 

The last step is helping your children to reach a resolution.  Several experts suggest having each child genuinely apologize for his role in the conflict and then suggest a solution.  Remember, it is best that they try to work things out between themselves and coming up with their own solutions helps them participate in the process rather than a parent imposing a resolution upon them.  Whatever solution they agree to, make sure that you monitor them so that the resolution is enforced. 

By helping your children to resolve conflicts among themselves, you are modeling and teaching them skills that they will be able to use all their lives, not only with family members, but also with everyone they come in contact with.  Let’s face it- conflicts arise frequently, so assist your children to learn how to quickly resolve them.

Encourage Your Child’s Creativity- It Shapes the Way He Views the World

One of my favorite quotes about encouraging curiosity in our children is by Dr. Bruce Perry in his online article “Curiosity: The Fuel of Development” on Scholastic.com: “Curiosity dimmed is a future denied.”  That sentiment holds so much truth.  Curiosity has led to innumerable world changing inventions and innovations, and stifling it not only does a disservice to the individual, but also potentially the world.

Dr. Perry is an internationally acclaimed authority on brain development and children.  In his online article, he discusses how important curiosity is in the development of a child.   As a child grows, he is more and more curious.  If he is encouraged to ask questions, explore, discover new things, and share his discoveries, he will grow in confidence and knowledge. 

Dr. Perry also discusses how we parents can hamper curiosity.  Three common ways are through fear, disapproval, and absence.  If a child is afraid, he will not be curious.  He will not want to take a chance and ask a question.  He will seek comfort with the status quo and conforming. 

If a child hears disapproval from his parents, he will not be curious.  What forms of disapproval are parents using?  Examples begin with the word “don’t”.  Don’t touch that; don’t get dirty; don’t ask questions! When your child knows that you are disgusted or upset when he does a particular thing, he will not want to do it or anything similar to it.  A child seeks approval from his parents and if his parents do not approve of him being inquisitive, he will not be.  Plain and simple!

A curious mind also needs a parent who is supporting and motivating.  A smile, kind words, a look of encouragement – all of these and much more encourage a child to continue asking and seeking. If a parent is absent, the nurturing that a child needs is not there.  

Encourage your children to seek, explore and discover.  Who knows – you may have a budding Einstein in your family!

To read more of the article, CLICK HERE.

At the Beginning of a New Year, Start a Children’s Book Club to Promote Reading

Book clubs are usually regarded as reserved only for parents.  A typical scene is adults gathered in the living room, sipping on a beverage, and talking about that exciting scene in their last read.  However, book clubs can be much more than that, especially for children.  These clubs give their members the opportunity to encourage each other in reading (and  all the benefits that come along with it); collectively immerse themselves into their book’s reality, leaving their own behind if only for a moment; and make new friends along with strengthen existing friendships.

Children already have such vivid imaginations and what better way to develop creativity than through books.  The idea of a club may not initially seem exciting to them, but gear your ‘pitch’ toward one of their favorite things.  For example, if they love robots, suggest some futuristic novels about artificial intelligence.

Filling the club with your children’s friends is a surefire way of making it more enjoyable.  There are several issues that need to be taken into consideration in planning, such as book genres to read and discuss, as well as convenient schedules and locations.  Be flexible as book clubs are not obligated to center around one theme.  At the start of a new club, have your children choose one or two books of their liking and then discuss with the other members of the group and their parents what types of books they would like to read.

Hosting the club once every two weeks or more makes scheduling easier and gives the children the opportunity to make reasonable headway on their reading assignment. Remember - it is unlikely that this is the club members’ only extramural activity, so discuss their existing schedules with their parents to come up with the best schedule and time for the meetings. When there actually are meetings, have a plan as to what should be accomplished in each session. They can discuss their favorite characters, make chapter/book predictions, relate the novel to an aspect of their lives, or act out their favorite scene.  The possibilities are endless!  Be prepared and organized so that the sessions run smoothly and children are encouraged to return.

It is critical that you find a good location for the meetings. Club meetings should be hosted in a convenient location and have enough space to seat everyone comfortably, including parents who may want to sit at a distance and listen. Perhaps rotating among members’ homes would be acceptable.

A further encouragement for your children’s participation would be having another “fun” activity planned afterwards that they can all look forward to.  For example, they can participate in the book club meeting and then go to the movies together. 

Reading is fundamental and book clubs can make it fun, too! You can find many of suggestions on PBS.org and SheKnows.com.

Should My Children Have A Pet?

Parents are thinking about purchasing those ubiquitous Christmas gifts and often high on the list is a pet for their children.  Of course, children love the idea of owning a pet.  Who would not want small, fluffy (or scaly) creatures to show them unconditional love at all times? But pets can be much more than that.  In fact, studies have shown that pets can be catalysts for your children’s increased well-being.

Whether a dog, cat, lizard or bird, pets can provide their owners with countless benefits - especially children.  Here are a few great things that these wonderful creatures bring into our lives.

1.    They Teach Companionship. I think philosopher Martin Buber put it best when he said, "an animal's eyes have the power to speak a great language."  Though they do not speak the same language or have the same mannerisms that we do, our furry friends somehow understand us enough to show us love when we want it and comfort when we need it.

In addition, they teach responsibility. They show children that to love something also means to take care of it - to feed and nurture it. From a large dog to a small fish, taking care of pets requires a lot of work. Exposing children to caretaking at a young age develops many critical skills for the future.

2.    Bye-Bye Allergies! Studies have shown that children who grow up with cats and dogs are less like to be sick compared to other children their age, and they are also less likely to develop pet-related allergies. Being exposed to pet dander at an early age reduces their chances of developing these allergies by 33%, according to a study by pediatrician James E. Gern, as it strengthens their immune systems. Before you rush to get a pet though, talk with your pediatrician because it is still possible for your children to acquire allergies.

3.    They Promote Activity. Animals, like dogs, need to be taken out for walks everyday - sometimes more than once a day.  Doing a couple of laps around the neighborhood is nice, but you and your children can use this task as an opportunity to explore so much more and become increasingly active.  Walk to the dog park and meet new people; go hiking with your pet; or have a run on the beach.  Keeping active is essential for both children and adults.

4.    They Make Life a Little Brighter. There is just something about the company of a pet that makes most children and adults happy. It is said that when we interact with animals, our dopamine and serotonin levels increase. In other words, the happy hormones in our brains are released!

5.    They are Learning Companions! Parents oftentimes find their children doing homework with or reading to their pets.  This is because there is no judgement with pets.  The comfort that they provide creates a safe space for children when doing academic tasks (or any task they may not be confident in).

Above all these benefits, the best thing a pet has been known to provide is the strengthened bond between family members.  They bring out the spirits of love and cooperation in people.  So, if your children ever ask for a pet this Christmas, please keep these points in mind when making your decision. Hopefully, it ends in adding a new member to the family under the Christmas tree!

Dress Modestly According to God’s Will

“… I want women to adorn themselves modestly and appropriately and discreetly in proper clothing ….”
1 Timothy 2:9 (AMP)

During this festive holiday season, it is the perfect time to dress up and have fun going to family and friends’ gatherings and parties.  In dressing up, please pay attention to modesty.  Yes … it is a subject that is often misconstrued but is of importance to Christians.  Importantly, it is not meant to shame young women and girls for their God-given bodies or even for appreciating the way they look.  Instead, it shows exactly who and what should be most important in our lives and who we represent - Jesus.  

The following is taken from an article about modesty and I could not say it any better.  It describes very well what modesty for a Christian is all about:

Modesty in the way we dress is not just for church; it is to be the standard for all Christians at all times. The key to understanding what constitutes modesty in dress is to examine the attitudes and intents of the heart. Those whose hearts are inclined toward God will make every effort to dress modestly, decently, and appropriately. Those whose hearts are inclined toward self will dress in a manner designed to draw attention to themselves with little or no regard for the consequences to themselves or others.

A godly woman endeavors to do everything with a “God-ward” perspective. She knows that God wants His people to be concerned for His glory and the spiritual state of their brothers and sisters in Christ. If a woman professes to be a Christian yet she dresses in a way that will unduly draw attention to her body, she is a poor witness of the One who bought her soul by dying for her on the cross. She is forgetting that her body has been redeemed by Christ and is now the temple of the Holy Spirit (
1 Corinthians 6:19–20). She is telling the world that she determines her own worth on a purely physical basis and that her attractiveness depends on how much of her body she reveals to them. Further, by dressing in an immodest fashion, displaying her body for men to lust after, she causes her brothers in Christ to sin, something condemned by God (Matthew 5:27–29). Proverbs 7:10 mentions a woman “dressed like a prostitute and with crafty intent”—here, the woman’s heart condition is displayed by her manner of dress.

The Scripture says that we are to dress modestly, but what exactly does that mean in modern society? Does a woman have to be covered from head to toe? There are cults and religions in the world that demand this of women. But is that the biblical meaning of modesty? Again, we have to go back to the matter of the attitudes of the heart. If a woman’s heart is inclined toward godliness, she will wear clothing that is neither provocative nor revealing in public, clothing that does not reflect negatively upon her personal testimony as a child of God. Everyone else in her circle may be dressing immodestly, but she resists the temptation to go along with the crowd. She avoids clothing designed to draw attention to her body and cause men to lust, for she is wise enough to know that type of attention only cheapens her. The idea of causing men to sin against God because of her dress is abhorrent to her because she seeks to love and honor God and wants others to do the same.

Modesty in dress reveals a modesty and godliness of the heart, attitudes that should be the desire of all women (and men) who live to please and honor God.


https://www.gotquestions.org/dress-modestly.html

Recommended Resource: A Woman After God's Own Heart by Elizabeth George

Support Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in September

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.  It was established to honor children fighting cancer and support the development of treatments.  You do not have to know someone with childhood cancer to commemorate or contribute to this extremely worthwhile cause.

There are many ways that you and your children can show support for children affected by cancer, and here are a few:

Volunteer.  There is an abundance of volunteer opportunities to choose from and you should include your children too. If there are any children’s cancer centers or hospitals in your area,  donate your time to read to the patients.  Your children can bring toys to play and spend time with them too.  Consider baking cookies and other sweet treats to pass out to patients, doctors, nurses, and volunteers.  Showing you care by spending your time and having friendly interactions with the patients makes a loving and lasting impression on them.

Donate.  Consider making a monetary donation to a reputable charity, hospital or research lab that strives to benefit the lives of children with cancer. Whether you have $1 or $1,000,000, a donation is always valuable.  Additionally, talk with your children about making a donation too.  Emphasize the goal of the organization or hospital and explain how their donation will benefit it.  By using a portion of their allowance, they can contribute to the cause and help children in need. This teaches them to become more considerate and loving of others and it gives them a sense of accomplishment knowing that their generous deed benefitted someone else.

Another idea is to have a group fundraising event involving food or bake sales, car washes, or even yard sales.

Help a family. If you know a family affected by childhood cancer, there are many ways to assist them.  Consider calling or texting to check up on them and sending hand-written cards with friendly messages.  Make decorating and writing cards a fun family event.  A short message such as “Best wishes from our family to yours. We are always here if you need anything and will continue to pray for you,” can provide comfort in knowing that they are not alone.

Also, volunteering to do chores such as house sitting or lawn mowing can take a lot of extra pressure off adults in the family and give them more time to focus on their loved one in need.

There are so many ways and opportunities for you and your family to commemorate Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.  As Christians, we are called to show our love to others, and what better way than assisting children in need.

How Did Labor Day Start?

In the United States, we will celebrate Labor Day on Monday, September 4.  It is not just a day to pull out the barbecue grill one last time before autumn hits.  It is a very important federal holiday commemorating the Labor Movement of the 19th century that sought to end the poor and unfair treatment of American workers.   Take some time to learn about the history of this holiday and share it with your children because there is quite a lot to learn and commemorate.

In the late 1800s, during the period known as the Industrial Revolution in the United States, the majority of people worked in factories, mills, and mines under unsafe and unsanitary conditions, 7 days a week, 12 hours a day, for very little pay.  Children as young as 5 years old were working as well for less pay than adults.  There was no quality of life in the work place. The only way that workers believed their voices would be heard was through forming unions and taking part in strikes and organized marches.  

The first and arguably the most influential march was held on September 5, 1882 in New York City.  This was the same day that the union, Nobel Order of the Knights of Labor, was planning on meeting in the city, so it decided to invite other unions as well.  About 20,000 workers gave up an entire day’s pay to participate and the march soon turned into a parade.  This was the first parade of many to come.  Over a decade later, in 1896, President Grover Cleveland decided to make the day a national holiday while many states, such as Oregon, New York, Colorado, and Massachusetts, had already recognized the day for several years.

There were some workers who were not allowed to participate in these marches or parades, such as African Americans.  While the Knights of Labor union was race inclusive, African American workers could not be members of the majority of white labor unions.  Despite the racism and aversion by the white workers towards them, African American workers were still able to band together and create unions of their own, one of which was the Colored National Labor Union (CNLU).  The Knights of Labor and the CNLU were some of the most powerful unions at the time.

The Knights of Labor union was almost fully responsible for the first Labor Day celebration and the CNLU was successful in arranging employee benefits and fair wages for its workers.  Unfortunately, the two unions would eventually die out before Labor Day was recognized as a national holiday.

It is important for our children to understand the history behind our national holidays, including this one.  Labor Day is not about barbecues and marking the end of summer- it is about ending the unfair treatment of workers and actually celebrating the innovation and creativity of American workers and the many contributions they have made.