Encourage Your Children to Read More by Building a Fort

The Christmas and New Year’s holidays will soon be here and our children will have many days off from school.  I often like to think about creative ways for parents to encourage their children to read and develop active readers from a young age.  Why not consider building a fort in a child’s room or family room as a unique, cozy, private place to read?

In building a makeshift fort, let your children take the lead in researching what types of forts can be built, planning what is needed, and actually building it.  After all, it’s “their” fort.  I recommend starting out by searching the internet for pictures, articles and ideas.  There are also many books that give step by step instructions on building all types of forts. 

A fort can be simple and just made with a few chairs for walls and a blanket thrown across the chairs for the roof.  Or, it can be more elaborate.  What is important is that everyone participates in the decision as to what it will look like.   Be sure to make it big enough so that you can join your children in the fort.  A fun activity is reading to them inside the fort!

This project will definitely be one for the memory books!  And, importantly, you and your children will have a fun time bonding.

Working Parents: Have a Plan for Taking Time Off From Work When Your Children Need You

Whether your child has an illness or injury, or the babysitter could not make it, taking unexpected time off from work can be tricky.  When both parents work, this can cause unnecessary tension because of arguments about who is going to stay home and take care of the child.  To prevent this from happening, it is very important to develop a plan ahead of time with your spouse about unanticipated “at home” days.

One important consideration is who has the most flexible schedule on any given day.   It may be that an arrangement can be worked out where both parents  divide the caretaking day in half.  If one spouse has mostly morning meetings and the other spouse has them in the afternoon, you can both work around your schedules.  My late husband and I did this.  His schedule was generally more flexible than mine, since as a lawyer, my schedule could be extremely busy.  We worked it out though between us, always keeping our focus on what was best for our children.  Compromise is very important as it reduces the parents’ stress levels and aids in flexible decision making, which of course, leaves more time for you both to focus on your child who needs you.

Speak to your office manager or human services representative ahead of time about the protocol for working from home or having children in the workplace. Many companies allow a parent to work from home if he is unable to come to the office and some allow children to be in the office under special circumstances.

If you and your spouse are not able to do any of the above, research alternatives.  Often retired relatives or friends will assist for a short while.  What is critical is that you do not wait until you need assistance to find a solution.

Raising children can be filled with ups and downs.  Having a plan and being willing to compromise - those are the key elements to surviving a sudden at-home stay.  Life is always going to throw curveballs at you, but being proactive can make them a little easier to catch

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.

Sharing Jesus With Your Children

As a lay children’s minister for many years, I loved teaching children about Jesus in my church’s children’s ministry.  We used a variety of techniques, from puppet shows to funny skits, to dressing up in clown costumes to fun parties.  Everything was centered on the Word of God. Of course, I was trained to do what I did and relied upon the creativity that God gave me as well.

Many parents find it hard or uncomfortable to talk about Jesus with their children.  But, it shouldn’t be that way as parents are the first teachers of and role models for their children.

When talking with children about Jesus, I recommend to focus first on how much He loves them and wanted to be around children.  Describe some of the instances in the New Testament about Jesus and children.  When the disciples tried to keep the children away from Him, Jesus stopped them and made sure the children were allowed to come to Him.  He said that the kingdom of God belonged to them too.  Matthew 19:13-14; Mark 10:13-16.  One day, He took a child in His arms and told the people that if anyone receives a child in His Name receives Jesus and God, the Father.  Mark 9:36-37.  To illustrate the importance of children, He also told the people that children are not to be despised as their angels in heaven continually see the face of God.  Matthew 18:10.  And, He loved children so very much that He said it was not the will of God that any child should perish.  Matthew 18:14.

I further recommend that parents not limit talking about Jesus and spiritual issues to just Sundays.  All during the week, look for instances to talk about the goodness and love of God such as the beauties of nature; food to eat; a good home to live in; nice clothes to wear; and fun toys and games to play with.  Talk to them about how forgiving God is. The subjects are endless.  What is important is that your children see and hear about God every day. 

When you need assistance, surf the internet to find out what you can do.  There is quite a bit of information available to help parents.          

Have Interesting Dinner Conversations With Your Children

Dinner is one of the most important times during the day that you can spend talking with your children and learning more about them.  But, if your children are like mine, they usually have one or two word responses to questions.  How was your day? “Fine.”  Did you do anything interesting at school? “Not really.” And, I have to ask everyone to put away their cell phones so that we can actually focus on talking.  Every once in a while, however, I observe someone sneaking a peak at a cell phone under the table.

What can parents do to encourage stimulating discussions with their children during dinner time?  Many experts agree that making dinner a regular ritual is important.  Children need order and regularity in their lives, so parents should plan to have regular dinners with them most days of the week.  Another recommendation is to ensure that all devices are turned off.  Everyone at the table should be focused on listening and talking to and with each other.  No cell phones, tablets, computers, or televisions should be on or at the dinner table.

Experts also recommend to plan ahead so that you have good questions and conversation starters, and not to ask the same questions each night.  Change it up a bit.  Make it fun.  Ask questions about a grandparent’s heritage or the funniest thing that happened that day or the grossest thing they have ever eaten or what is their favorite song and why.   The questions are unlimited.  It takes your commitment as a parent to think and plan for these conversations during dinners with your children and see them as special opportunities for everyone to learn about each other.

Include Visiting a Library at Your Vacation Spot as Part of Your Family’s Travel Plans

    Have you ever thought of visiting a library at your vacation spot as part of your family’s travel plans?  I’m sure that, at first, this may sound strange or odd.  But, take a few minutes to think about it.

    Libraries all over the US are seeking ways to better serve the public.  Most of them have very active children’s sections with regular readings, puppet shows, children’s art displays, and computer activities all aimed at fostering a love of reading. 

    My parents retired to live in a senior citizen community just north of Orlando, Florida.  When we visited them, we, of course, included trips to the many theme parks in the area.  But, that wasn’t all – we also regularly visited the Orlando Public Library.  My sons had interesting adventures in the children’s section amongst the great books available! Their imagination was the limit!

    Search the internet about the library located at your vacation spot.  The website www.publiclibraries.com is helpful to find one with just one easy click.  On the website for the Orlando Public Library, I found some very interesting topics for adults and children: a class on learning how to pack healthy lunches for kids; a talk on family adventures by a travel author; “end of summer” events with costumes and prizes; and much more. 

Author Soraya Diase Coffelt