Helping Your Children Find Hobbies and Sticking with Them

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Do your children have any hobbies?  A hobby is something that is done during their free time for fun and pleasure.  I hope that you did not answer that question with “Yes-they play video games”!  The absolutely last thing we should want our children to be doing during their free time is sitting and playing video games for hours on end.  

According to child development experts, hobbies are important for children for many reasons.  Hobbies help your children to develop creativity.  Is your child artistic?  Then, encourage him to draw and paint.  Several brand stores have huge sections devoted to art supplies.  Does your child enjoy taking photos with your cell phone?  Encourage her to continue to take photos and learn more about that art form.  There are many books that teach about how to take photos and to be very creative in doing so.  If her interest continues, consider purchasing a camera for her.  You can even show some of her photographs to her teacher and ask for suggestions of a club that she can join with like-minded persons.

Hobbies also can help develop skills that may lead to lucrative careers in the future.  If your child enjoys writing stories, help her to learn more about being an author and structuring her work.  It may be that you have a budding Pulitzer prize winner on your hands!

Hobbies further help children with developing intelligence.  For example, by sitting and putting together a jigsaw puzzle, your child will learn how to associate shapes with images as well as patience.  If your child enjoys reading, books will provide challenges to learn new words.  When your child encounters a new word, encourage him to write it down, find its meaning, and then use it in a sentence.  Review the word again with him each day for a few days to make sure that he continues to remember it. 

Lastly, hobbies give children a sense of accomplishment.  They have undertaken a fun task, stayed with it, and completed it.  Do all you can to have your children complete a hobby that they started.  The results can truly be amazing for them and you!

There are so many hobbies to consider.  One of the growing categories is rocketry.  Think about all the science involved with propelling a rocket.  Your children will be learning as well as having a fun time.

Please do not overburden your children with hobbies though. As I have written in prior blogs, your children need to spend time with you and other family members.  Adding too many activities to their schedule, especially during the school year can cause unnecessary pressures on them.

The list of hobbies is almost endless.  Don’t allow your children to waste their free time.  Hobbies will definitely allow them to continue growing and learning.

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 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.

Reading Fairytales from Around Our World Benefits Children in Many Ways

"If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales."  Albert Einstein

Growing up, I loved reading fairy tales from countries all over the world.   Some were funny, others were serious.  They all had a moral or specific lesson to teach.  As an adult, I still love to read them.  They are much more than short stories about people who get into all sorts of predicaments.  Their teaching value is immeasurable.

In an internet article entitled “7 Reasons Why Fairy Tales are the Best Books for Kids”, the author describes the many benefits that children can reap from reading these tales:

1.    They teach that no situation is hopeless.

2.    They teach that hard work and practice are the foundations for success.

3.    They teach children to be willing to explore and be open to new things.

4.     They teach self-reliance.

5.    They teach children to be careful about whom they trust.  This is especially appropriate in today’s society.

6.    They teach critical thinking.

7.    They teach right from wrong.

There are many websites that provide readers with dozens of stories from around the world, such as fairytalesoftheworld.com and storynory.com.  Spend some time searching for the ones that you believe would be best for your children and enjoy reading them together.  Create special moments laughing and discussing the lesson in each tale. 

The entire article on the benefits of reading fairy tales can be found by clicking 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.

African Americans and Women Played an Important Role in the Fight for American Independence

Tomorrow is the 4th of July or as Americans have come to know it as Independence Day.  It is well known what this day celebrates- our hard fought independence from the British almost 250 years ago - and the many people who played key roles in the fight.  We frequently think of our founding fathers as the central figures in the war.  What many may not know, though, is that there were also African Americans and women who played a critical part in securing our freedom.

Salem Poor is one of those people. He was born in Massachusetts as a slave, but at the age of 22, had saved up a year’s salary so that he could buy his freedom.  Once freed, he enlisted in the army and this would bring him his notoriety only a year later.  Poor was instrumental in the Battle of Bunker Hill- an important battle in the fight for America’s freedom- defeating several British officers and inspiring paintings commemorating the victory.

Also Massachusetts-born was former slave Peter Salem. He was not only an important soldier in the Battle of Bunker Hill, but also in the entire American Revolutionary War.  At the time of his recruitment, the Massachusetts Committee of Safety only recruited free African Americans.  He traded his life as a slave to fight in the army.

Women such as Margaret Corbin also played major roles in the war. Corbin and her husband helped in defending Fort Washington, but when he got injured, she took over, manning the canon. She did not hesitate to take it upon herself to do a job meant for two.

These and many other men and women are often forgotten in history.  But, do not let that happen.  Teach your children about this day and all the different people who risked their lives to fight for a cause they profoundly believed in.  It makes our history much more vibrant and interesting by doing so.

Parents - It’s Important to Stay Involved in Your Children’s Homework Process

Last week, I ended my blog by stating that the implementation of a homework schedule and a quiet place to work gives children the basics they need for concentration and a good homework product.  I suggested that parents set aside time to assist their children. Today, I will dig deeper into parental involvement in homework.

When it comes to homework, take time to, at the very least, oversee the homework process. Ask questions to make sure that they know what the homework is and what is expected of them. 

Engage and respond when given the chance. Working with your children not only gives them an opportunity to discuss what they are learning, but also gives parents the opportunity to know what their children are learning. Even the smartest children will sometimes need help and that is an opportunity to step in.  In regard to making corrections, while it is important for you to make a correction when a mistake is made, you should give critiques constructively, not with judgment or name calling. 

As children grow older, their work becomes progressively harder, making it more difficult for both students and parents to keep up.  Never “make up” an answer if you do not know how to solve a specific problem. Your job is to help them to the best of your ability.  Giving false information does more damage than good for a child’s education. Instead, make a note of the problem that was giving you both trouble and speak with or email the teacher, so the teacher knows exactly what to review with your child during the next class.

When it comes to homework, there is no expectation for you to be the perfect parent. There will be some areas you can assist with and there will be times when you are just as confused as your children, maybe even more.  Being a part of that process is what is most important for your children’s development and what will eventually cause them to thrive.

Spending Time with Your Children While They are Doing Homework

Homework is an integral aspect of your children’s education as it ensures that they can comprehend every lesson taught to them.  Spending quality time with them and assisting when necessary, shows that you care for them and their success. 

I remember that, as a child, my mother was by my side to help and guide me whenever I had homework challenges.  One such challenge comes vividly to mind.  When I was in 5th grade, I had a homework assignment due the first school day after the four day Thanksgiving holiday.  Even though I had four days to complete it, I kept procrastinating and waited until late Sunday afternoon to begin it.  What I discovered was that it was not a short, easy assignment.  I had to study all about Thanksgiving Day and create an art project about the Pilgrims.  I panicked and went straight to my mother for help.  Not only did she spend the rest of that afternoon and evening assisting me putting together the art project, but she also enlisted all of my sisters to help.  We had the dining room table covered with crayons and markers, pictures of turkeys, Pilgrims and Indians, and glue.  

My mother was not happy that I had procrastinated and she made that very clear.  I can honestly say that I never procrastinated on another homework project again! 

Every child handles homework differently. Consider developing a homework schedule as an integral part of your children’s academic development.  It should not only be consistent, but also work well for the child, making the experience less of a chore.

Once you work out a schedule, set up an environment where your children are able to complete their work without problems or interference.  After doing all this, you should set aside time to help them complete their assignments.  Remember, though, not to do their homework for them!

How to Choose a Bible for Your Children

Do you have a Bible for your children?  Many parents buy story books for their children with stories out of the Bible because they do not believe that their children will be able to understand the Bible.  I continue to encourage parents to buy an actual Bible for their children so that they can begin to read God’s Word for themselves.

In the online article Choosing a Child’s Bible, writer T. Capps provides some excellent guidance in selecting the right Bible for your children.  Important considerations are:

1. Make sure that you purchase a Bible that is the right reading level for your child.

2. Buy a Bible that is the complete Bible, and not just one part.  That way, your children learn from young about the Old and New Testaments.

3.  If the Bible has pictures, ensure that they are accurate and not cartoon characters or scary.  The Bible is not a cartoon book, and children should not think of it as such.

4. Purchase a Bible that has maps and other information to help your children learn more about the time periods.  Maps, timelines, etc., offer assistance to children and make the Bible more understandable.

5. Make sure that the Bible is durable and further consider a cover for it so that it can last many years.

The author makes many more helpful suggestions.  Spend time considering what Bible to purchase as it will be a prized possession for your children for many years. To read the entire article, click here.

Former President Obama is a Wonderful Role Model for Many Things, Including Being a Reader Who Enjoys Books

Former President Barrack Obama is a true role model.  He is a loving husband and father.  He enjoys continuing to learn and grow.  And, he especially loves to read.  During his presidency, he often promoted the importance of reading to students, and would actually take some of his precious time to read to them.

In an interview with the New York Times just days before he stepped down from office, President Obama made it clear that “books were a sustaining source of ideas and inspiration, and gave him a renewed appreciation for the complexities and ambiguities of the human condition.”  He especially found enlightening and helpful books by such great men as Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.  In fact, he told the reporter that he would often leave his office so that he could read.

Not only is he a reader, but he is also a well-known author.  His love of books led him to write in order to encourage others.  I truly hope that he continues to promote literacy, especially among our African American and Hispanic young men.  If President Obama loves to read, it should be cool for young men to read too.  What an impactful message he sends!

To read the entire article, please CLICK HERE.

What is One of the Most Important New Year’s Resolutions That You Can Make For Your Children? Read more!

    I came across this post by an unknown author about reading to your children.  As you may know, my blog centers on improving the lives of children, primarily through literacy.  It should be no surprise that I would continue to inspire adults to read more to and with children.  As we begin a new year, I encourage you to add that as a New Year’s resolution as it keeps reading on your most important things “to do” list each day.  

    As the unknown author writes, it only can take 20 minutes a day.  That is 20 minutes out of 1,440 minutes that we have each and every day.  Surely you can squeeze in the time!  But, if there is one day that you just have 10 minutes, still do it.  Don’t put reading off to a time in the future when you believe you will have “enough time” because often, that time does not happen.   Make procrastinating a thing of the past and just do it!

    What about where and when to read?  The author again gives you some suggestions.  Think about all the things that you do each day that require some sort of waiting time, and then add reading.  While you do laundry … while dinner cooks – these are just a few of those times.   Moreover, read during any time of the day – especially on weekends and holidays.  Search for opportunities to read. 

    I love it when the author suggests to “Hide the remote; let the computer games cool.”  We all know that these electronic devices steal reading time away from us.  So, in other words, don’t even turn on the television.  If you have it on, turn it off and then don’t let anyone else turn it on while reading is going on.  With computer games, you may have to pull your children away from them, but pull, pull, pull!  Those games won’t go anywhere and when you give the approval for your children to return to them, they will still be there.

    While reading, have your children snuggle close to you.  This is a wonderful time to bond and love on them.  They hear your voice.  They feel your warm touch.  They know that they are truly loved!  And, as the author says “Hey, don’t quit.”  Tomorrow is another day to read, and read, and read some more.

How Much Time Do You Spend Each Day Listening to Your Children?

During these busy holiday times, it is especially difficult for us to take our time as parents, slow down, and listen to our children when they speak.  Active listening skills can be developed - it just takes your desire to want to do it.  I love this quote from Catherine M. Wallace on today’s blog because I believe it is so true.  Listen to your children today and show them you love them so that when they grow up, you will always be considered as a parent to talk to.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have some very important information on their website about parenting and developing the skills of active listening with your children.

Active listening is one of the most important ways to build a close and loving relationship. Here are some of the active learning skills that the CDC recommends:

  1. Stop what you are doing and focus your attention exclusively on your child.
  2. Engage in eye contact when speaking.
  3. Get down to your child’s level physically.  If your child is sitting down, sit down too.
  4. Reflect or repeat back what you understand your child to be saying to make sure that you completely understand it.  
  5. Don’t worry about getting things wrong.  It is more important that you are listening and trying to understand.

On this website, the CDC gives examples of active listening skills so you can read for yourself and get suggestions.  Please visit it to learn more: CLICK HERE.

Inspirational Back to School Quotes for Your Children – Build Trust

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; and lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.

Proverbs 3:5-6

For the month of September, I have been centering my blog posts on inspirational, back to school quotes for your children.  In this last blog for the month, I would like to focus on teaching your children to trust God.

Trusting God first starts with children understanding and accepting the critical truth that He loves them unconditionally.  Unlike a parent whose love may be denied based on the child’s actions, God always loves us because He is love.  Since He loves us so very much, we know that we can trust Him in everything.

On her webpage, Rachel Wojo writes about many ways to teach trust to children.  She suggests taking your children to a planetarium, for example, to help them understand how big our God is and how His ways are greater than our ways.  She also has a list of Bible verses to read with your children to help them build trust.  She further suggests spending quality time praying with your children, and when their prayers are answered, remind them of all that God has done for them.  To learn more, visit her webpage by clicking here.

Inspirational Back to School Quotes for Your Children – Instill Courage

The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.

Deuteronomy 31:8

I’m continuing with back to school inspirational quotes for your children during the month of September and today’s blog post is on instilling courage.  As your children return to school, they are dealing with many different fears – fears of the unknown such as new teachers, new classmates, new activities, etc.  The Bible is filled with stories showing how ordinary people overcame their fears by keeping their focus on God.  Pick out some stories and read them to your children.

One wonderful example is Daniel in the lion’s den.  Discuss the characters in the stories and how they stood out from among the others.  Select verses focusing on courage and help your children memorize them.  Pray with your children for strength and courage during times of transition.  Talk to them about the situations that they are going through.  Help them develop a deep understanding that God is faithful and will always be with them.

Include Attending Book Festivals as Fun, Family Activities

    There are so many book festivals throughout the year.  These festivals celebrate authors and books – for all ages – often at no entry cost whatsoever.  Many festivals are just for children’s books or have sections dedicated for children, with children’s authors and their books featured and available for sale.  A variety of fun children’s activities also are held, such as face painting, children’s crafts, musical performances and exhibitions geared for children. 

    Not only will your children learn about new books, but they will also have the opportunity to actually meet and speak with children’s authors.  Have the authors autograph their books for your children.  This will make the books more personal and special.   Some festivals have “Read to Me Corners” where authors read their books and speak about their love for reading and writing.  

    Search the internet for book festivals near you.  What a wonderful way to spend a day with your children!   They are sure never to forget their experiences. 

    Please join me on September 3 and 4, 2016 in Decatur, Georgia at the Decatur Book Festival.  I’ll be at booth #629 in the children’s area.  I’ll also be at the Miami Book Festival on November 19, 2016.  I would love to meet you and your children and autograph books.

Reading Bedtime Stories with Your Older Children

    When was the last time that you read a bedtime story with your older children?  When they were young, you took the time to read and cuddle before going to bed.  But, now that they are older and can read by themselves, you should not stop reading with them bedtime stories.

    According to Scholastic.com, there are many benefits to reading bedtime stories with your older children.  Here are a few:

1.  Your children are spending precious time with you and you with your children.   You are doing something together, which builds memories. 
2. You get to know their opinions.  When reading, ask questions.  Since they are older, they can give their opinions on subjects.  Have them think outside the box, rather than just giving rote answers.  This will give you important insight into what and how they are thinking. And, remember – no question is a dumb question.  
3. Children are learning good writing skills and sentence structure when they listen to well written books.  Then, when they are in school, they will be able to remember these skills and replicate them.  This is much different than with their younger siblings who are not at that stage of development yet.  

    Be sure to select a time that is convenient for you and your children.  Don’t rush through a book just to say that you read with them.  Plan and take the time that both you and they need to make this an enjoyable occasion.

    For more information, read the online article by CLICKING HERE.

Throw a Fun Book Swap Party for Your Children and Friends

    Book swap parties have become popular events for children and promote reading at the same time.  They are simple to organize and fun to participate in.  And, they are a wonderful way to add new books to your children’s collection without having to pay the cost.

    If you’ve never been to a book swap party, here’s how they usually go.  Pick a date that will work for you, your children, and others.  Have your children select the books that they have already read and would like to swap with other children.  Be sure to explain to them that once the book is swapped, it no longer belongs to them but to the other child.  That way they understand that the book will have a new home. 

    Encourage your children to write a couple of sentences on an index card or post-it note as to why they liked those books.  This will encourage other children to read the books too.

    The children who are invited should also bring their books to swap.  Plan refreshments and snacks, just as with a regular party.  During the party, the children look at all the books and swap for the ones they want.  For those books that are left over, donate them to your children’s school’s library or the public library.

What are Some Interesting and Fun-filled Summer Activities for Children?

    It’s summer.  Are you wondering about what to do with your children?  You have a lot of work at the office, but your children need summer activities to fill their time.  I came across this online article by Jen Hatmaker discussing 10 summer activities to do with your children.  She’s a wonderful writer and has come up with many fun and creative ideas.  

    Some examples are:

  1. Let your kids make videos or movies with a smart phone.  There are many free apps out there to help.
  2. Do “Mystery Thursdays” (or any other day of the week that fits best with your schedule).  The kids know that the family is going somewhere that is fun but it’s a complete surprise.
  3. Go through your children’s closets and toy bins and donate what they do not use anymore or have outgrown.   Try connecting with a needy family.
  4. Cook some very special meals with them.  Take out those cookbooks and search together to find the best recipes.  Have fun buying the ingredients, following the recipes, and then cooking.  Ms. Hatmaker mentions that she and her daughter cooked some meatball subs that were so delicious that they couldn’t stop talking and bragging about them. 
  5. Have a family boot camp and exercise together. 

To read her article and more of her ideas, CLICK HERE.

More Summer Reading Programs for Children

    I can’t write enough about the importance of having your children read during the summer.   The diagram with this blog today illustrates how children can actually drastically lose reading skills during the summer months if they do not have access to books.  For children in high and low income households who read during the summer, their reading skills improved up to 25%.  For children in low income households who do not read, their reading skills actually dropped by almost 10%.

    On an online article, Liz Haskins lists 10 free summer reading programs.  She also explains how to access free books on a Kindle or E-Reader.  Read her article by CLICKING HERE.  There is no excuse for not having your children read, and read, and read this summer.  Your child’s performance in school during the coming year depends on it.  

Teaching Your Children the Importance of What Happened on July 4th

    Is July 4th just another barbeque holiday for you and your family?  Yes, it’s great to have a day off to spend time with family and friends, but July 4th has such important history behind it.  Share that history with your children before you leave home.  

    Just what happened on that wonderful day?  Our country back in the 1770s consisted of 13 colonies ruled by Great Britain.  The colonists became very angry because Great Britain began imposing many taxes on them without their knowledge or representation in Parliament, and began protesting against this.  In response, Great Britain sent in soldiers to quash all resistance.  

    The colonists chose representatives to meet to discuss what they would do.  In 1774, a group of representatives formed the First Continental Congress and met in Philadelphia to begin discussing becoming independent from Great Britain.  They made a list of demands to King George and began forming militias to defend themselves.  The British did not back down and sent in more soldiers.  In 1776, a group of men led by Thomas Jefferson were asked to write an explanation as to why the colonists wanted independence.  This document became known as the Declaration of Independence.  It refers to God five times, as they believed God was very important in guiding them to establish our new country and God had created us all to be free and equal.

    On July 4, 1776, Congress voted to adopt the Declaration of Independence.    This day has been remembered and celebrated since.