Service Projects for Children This Summer

Among the many interesting things that your children can be doing this summer are service projects in your community.  These projects teach children gratitude, how to care for others, be kind and helpful, and instill a sense of pride in them.   There are various non-profits that are committed to many different issues so whether you partner with one or do your own project as a family will be up to you.  I have included in this week’s blog some ideas for you to consider.

Start off by talking with your children about what projects they would like to participate in.  The last thing you want to happen is have a car full of complaining children because you are “forcing” them to do something they do not want to do.  Do they like dogs and cats?  If so, consider having them volunteer at an animal shelter.  Of course, check with the shelter and other non-profits first before you plan a service project to ensure that they can accommodate children. 

Do they complain about trash at the park? Organize them and their friends to do a clean-up.   Have they accumulated a lot of clothes that they have outgrown?  Help them gather the clothes together and donate them to a women’s shelter.  I have listed at the end of this blog a couple of websites that suggest a number of service projects.

Before, during and after each service project, talk to your children about the importance of what they are doing.  Encourage them to do more. Praise them for their efforts. 

For ideas on service projects and getting your children ready to serve, please read these two online articles:

Make Sure Your Children Participate in Vacation Bible School This Summer

Churches have developed wonderful programs for children during the summer that have become known as vacation bible schools or VBSs.  Some programs last one week, others up to one month.  They are excellent programs for your children to learn more about the Word of God, develop friendships, and have a lot of fun.

There are many professional companies that produce annual vacation bible school programs, from teaching materials for teachers, to music videos, song CDs, skits, and bible verse memory cards.  Each program differs but they usually follow a format.  There is typically one simple theme and bible verses are selected that support the theme.  For example, a company has as one of its themes this year “Life is Wild – God is Good” with a jungle motif.   Another theme is “Athens – Paul’s Dangerous Journey to Share the Truth” with a Greek motif.

The creativity of these programs is amazing.  The appeal to children exceptional.  No longer do church leaders have to be concerned about creating their own study material and music, as everything is prepared and provided for them to lead a successful vacation bible school.

Importantly, vacation bible school is not a babysitting service.  As a lay children’s minister who volunteered as a leader for many VBSs, I was saddened to see that often parents thought of it as that.   It is instead a wonderful learning program where children thoroughly enjoy themselves. 

If your church sponsors a VBS, please enroll your children in it.  If not, research other churches in your community that do.  Your children will truly be blessed by participating!

In Spelling Bees, All Children Are Winners!

We have all seen them – a child standing on a stage, before a room full of people, being given words to spell.  Each child patiently attempts to speak clearly into the microphone to spell the word.  Many of those words are very difficult to pronounce, much less spell.  We think – what a smart and brave child to be standing up there in front of all those people, trying so hard to accurately spell.  What I would also encourage you to think about are the many benefits to having your child participate in a spelling bee.  Here are just a few:

1.    It helps to enhance your children’s vocabulary, as they learn more words and become accurate spellers.

2.    It helps children learn better grammar as they not only learn the meaning of new words but also learn to use them properly in sentences.

3.    It helps children to develop poise and confidence.  Being able to stand in front of a group of people, think on your feet, and handle pressure are important skills that take time to develop. 

4.    Since it’s a competition, competitive skills are being developed as well.  Friendships are being built and competition brings excitement.

5.    For those children who do not win, it gives them the opportunity to figure out what they could have done better as well as how to lose gracefully. 

If your child wants to participate in a spelling bee, it is very important that he gets the support he needs both at school and at home.  It takes discipline, diligence and hard work.  And, the rewards are tremendous!

Activities for the Whole Family to Celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus

The day we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is this Sunday.  I don’t like to refer to it as “Easter” because that word is of pagan origins.  Besides attending a morning service at church, do you have anything planned as part of the celebration?  Here are a few ideas to make the festivities more fun and informative for the entire family.

1.    Decorations. Before the event, make streamers or tabletop centerpieces on the theme of the holiday. Dove or cross streamers are a lovely touch to an indoor or outdoor space. The same goes for signs with bible verses on them. You can find several other decoration ideas online or come up with them yourself!

2.    Crafts Table. Whether you plan to invite friends over or choose to keep it as a family celebration, a crafts table is always a good idea. There could be coloring pages based on the biblical story, stencils to make doves and crosses, even paint and markers to illustrate a favorite story or memory.  These creative ideas will keep children occupied while the adults greet guests, prepare the spread, or just relax. Do not let the kids have all the fun though, as adults can join in on the crafts table too!

3.    The Feast. Speaking of a spread, you can spice things up this year by making a meal reminiscent of the Last Supper. Though the Bible is clear that unleavened bread and wine were served at the Last Supper, the other foods Jesus and his disciples ate are not stated.  What is known is that foods such as date charoset and cholent were popular at the time and you can now find these recipes online. Your children can help you. Older kids can prep much of the food or assist with the cooking process itself. Younger children can be put in charge of the food display and be little taste testers too. While everyone is partaking in the meal, discuss the significance of the Last Supper in reference to the resurrection of Christ. What a great way to get the whole family involved!

4.    Resurrection. Now that you have shared the significance of the meal relative to His resurrection, discuss the resurrection itself. To make it a little more interactive, prepare certain discussion points with your children ahead of time. If there are guests over, consider playing a game at the end of the story using questions about details from it. Whoever answers the most questions correctly then wins the game and will get a prize!

These are a few suggestions that you and your family can consider in celebrating this most eventful time in Christian history, always remembering the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for us.

You can also check out my children’s book It’s Not About You, Mr. Easter Bunny- A Love Letter About the True Meaning of Easter, along with its coloring pages by CLICKING HERE.

The Importance of Having Family Devotional Time

Parents play such a vital role in their children’s lives and forming their character – this is a theme that permeates my blog posts.  Being a parent who actually wants to impact their children requires you to spend time with them, including devotional and prayer time. 

First and foremost, we must start with you as a parent.  Do you have time set aside each day for your own devotions and prayer life?  Children are very observant and will likely follow your example rather than your words.  Explain to your children why you have a devotional time and how it benefits you.  Spending time reading the Bible, meditating on a scripture verse, being quiet and alone with God, praying – these can all be ways to spend devotional time.

Now, to get your family involved requires planning.  Are your children toddlers or teenagers or both?   Activities should be directed at your children’s different ages. For example, do not expect your 4 year-old to sit still for long periods of time.  Plan having an activity such as coloring available that focuses on the theme for that day’s or week’s devotional.  Read a Bible story.  Talk with your children and ask them questions.  Let them ask you questions too.

There are many children and youth-friendly books for devotional time.   And, the internet has many websites as to what families can do together.  Start off with a length of time that is short so that when it is well planned, the time will fly by.  Make it a happy family time rather than a burden.  Children especially do not want to participate in an activity that is mundane. 

As your children get older, they should be encouraged to have their own devotional time as well.  Family devotional time can become the foundation for their own private devotions. 

For some recommendations of books to include, CLICK HERE.

Explaining Politics to Your Children

It’s February 2019 and already activities are gearing up for the presidential election in November 2020.  At least two persons have launched their presidential bids in the past two weeks.  Soon, more and more people will announce.  I believe that now is a key opportunity to begin discussing with your children what is happening in the political arena and take civics more seriously.   Your children will certainly hear statements made outside the home about various politicians, so why not have them engaged at home first so that they can understand the issues involved in the various campaigns and positions of each politician and political party better.

You may be wondering whether your children are even interested in politics and I think that you will be pleasantly surprised that many of them are.  In an interesting article online at kidshealth.org entitled Talking Politics: What to Say to Your Kids, the results of a survey conducted by it of more than 2,000 children and teens throughout the United States were revealed.  “A whopping 75% of kids and 79% of teens answered ‘yes’ when asked whether they thought that the outcome of an election (presidential) would change their lives. Nearly half of teens surveyed said that they believed they'd had at least some influence on their parents' choice of candidate.” 

The article strongly supports talking with your children about their viewpoints and not being critical of what they have to say.  Provide them with information and discuss various sides of an issue.  This will help them become more analytical and not just rely on a friend’s opinion but actually be able to question why someone has such an opinion and voice their own opinions with confidence.     

The coming presidential election is a hot topic and the more your children understand the issues, the more they can actively participate in discussions and enjoy the learning process.  They may even want to participate and help a candidate.  And, most important of all, when they turn 18 years old, they will want to register to vote because they know their vote matters.

To read the entire article, CLICK HERE.

Encourage Your Children to be Good Sports and Humble Winners

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourself.

                                                                                                Philippians 2:3

I’m a big promoter of children participating in sport activities as there are so many benefits for them.  And, I’m a mother of an athlete: my oldest son played many different sports, including basketball on his high school team and on a Division 1 college team.  Sports, of course, are competitive and typically there will be a winning team and a losing team.  How your children respond is important – whether they are part of the winners or losers.

Children’s attitudes toward sports and winning come, in most part, from their parents.  When you are watching a game on television, what do you say about the competing teams and their players? When you watch your children play a sport, what do you say about the same things?  As a mother who attended her son’s games, I can attest to the fact that many parents are at the sidelines saying  encouraging words to  their children and fellow team members but others make very derogatory statements.  Some verbally attack the referees, calling them all sorts of names, while some criticize the opposing team’s members as well as their parents.  I live in a small community so allegations can run rampant of referees being biased because they have favorite players or teams. 

Be mindful of what you say to your children about their performances and what happened during a game.  Encourage them to analyze what they did to play well and how they can improve their skills.  Discuss how their team can do better as well as what the opposing team did well and vice versa.  Be respectful to them, their teammates, opposing team members, coaches, and referees.  If coaches do not have team members shake the opposing team members’ hands after a game, have your children do that.  It represents respect for the sport as well as the persons who played.

There has been a recent trend to have all children participating in a sports competition be designated as “winners”.  I understand the reasoning behind this, but do not believe that it teaches children about reality.   In life, there will always be winners and losers.  How your children react when being in each group is an important part of their development.

Good sportsmanship must be valued and taught.It is an integral part of being a godly, respectful person.

Detecting Reading Problems in Your Children

In my blog, I write frequently about the importance of children reading from a very early age.  My mother taught me to read from a very early age.  When I was just 3 years old, I could read basic words.  When I was 4 years old, I was more advanced in reading than children in first grade.  My mother begged the administration of a small private school to admit me and after they tested me, they agreed and enrolled me into first grade.  But, what happens if you notice that your child is not learning to read as you had hoped?  What should you do?

In an excellent online article, author Melissa Taylor writes about 7 Early Signs Your Child May Have A Reading Issue.  This article is very helpful and I will briefly discuss some of the points she raises.  She stresses to have your child taken to a specialist as early diagnosis of any issues is critical to your child’s development.  Here are the 7 signs:

1.    Your child does not remember basic letter sounds, such as /a/ as in apple.

2.    Your child confuses letters that look-alike, such as “d” and “p”.  It is common for a young child to do this but as the child grows older, this confusion should not continue.

3.    Your child has a problem rhyming simple, basic words such as “mat” and “cat”.

4.    Your child does not remember easy sight words such as “a”, “her”, “to”, etc.

5.    You child does not pronounce the ending of some words, such as “-ing” or –“ed”.

6.    Your child has a poor memory and does not remember a recent book that was read.

7.    Your child misspells the same word throughout a document.  For example, she may write the word “because” in one paragraph and spell it correctly, but later in the same document, she misspells it as “beacuz” or “bekus”.

Other experts refer to your child’s vision as a possible issue.  Consider taking your child to see a physician to get his sight tested.

It’s important to not just sit back and believe your child will “grow out” of a reading problem.   Speak with her teachers and physician and seek assistance.  When there is early detection of a challenge and assistance given to help your child overcome that challenge, your child will definitely thank you.

Ms. Taylor has links to other websites in her article to further help you.  You can read her entire article by clicking here.

Holiday Advertising Aimed at Our Children

I write frequently about helping our children to overcome the negative pressures that often surround them and try to impact them.  Christmas is a few weeks away and advertisers have been doggedly aiming advertisements at our children since at least October.  Here are some suggestions as to how to help your children maneuver around this bombardment, especially during the holiday season:

1.    Use this time as teachable moments.  We as parents will never be able to stop advertisers from advertising, but we can help our children understand what is happening through advertisements.  Oftentimes, we do not think about an item until we see an advertisement.  Then, we can get the feeling as if we cannot live without it!  Advertising is very powerful, so talk with your children about it and the purpose behind it – us spending our money!

2.    Teach your child to be a smart shopper.  Just because you see an advertisement of a particular product does not, in turn, mean that it is the specific product that you must purchase.  If your child does need a particular item or if you would like to buy an item despite of need, make plans about it.  For example, if you would like to purchase a small electronic notebook for your child, discuss it with her.  Research together the different brands and models available.  Compare prices, warranties and ratings.  Impulse shopping can become addictive so teaching your child to be a smart shopper from a young age will help her to grow into a disciplined shopper.

3.    For Christians, Christmas is the season for giving, as God gave His only son to us.  Stress that with your children.  Plan how as a family and individually you and your children can give to others in need.  What community organization needs your help?  Consider volunteering to help others as a family activity and something that you will do throughout the year.

To read more about this subject, please CLICK HERE.

When Was the Last Time Your Family Had A Game Night?

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Children love spending time with their parents, especially fun time.  What better way than to have a family game night to enjoy the time together and help your children to learn and develop new skills?

Games teach children many different, yet important things.  From colors to shape recognition to new words to social interaction, there are so many benefits.  Some games such as chess teach logic and strategic planning.  Children also learn that there are basic rules that must be followed in order to play and win. 

To start off, select one night a month that fits into everyone’s schedules.  Once the date is selected, stick with it and do not make excuses to cancel it.  Plan for the night as a family so that each person has input.  Will there be food? What game will be played? How long will the game(s) last?  It is easy to search the internet to find games that will be suitable for your family.  Consider both board games and physical games such as Twister (which was one of our family’s favorites). 

Be sure not to give up if the first family night is not as successful as you hoped.  The key is to plan and keep everyone involved.  It will become one of your and your children’s fondest memories.

Helping Your Children Become Entrepreneurs

We should encourage entrepreneurship spirit in our children beginning at a young age.  Children are very creative and having a dream to establish a business and be self-sufficient and successful are very positive goals.

My parents were small business owners.  I saw how they struggled to make ends meet when their business was established and then the benefits they reaped as the business grew.  After I graduated from law school and returned home to practice law, the seeds they had planted in me for entrepreneurship began to grow and I established my own private law practice.  My parents always encouraged me and my sisters to be self-sufficient and follow our dreams.

Later, as a mother with two sons, I hired them to work in my office to do general office tasks after school and on the weekends.  By working with me in that business environment, they were able to experience hands on training about what it is like to own your business and the dedication and hard work it takes to be successful.

Many children do not have the opportunities that I and my children had but parents can still open their children’s minds to the possible business opportunities that are available.   Children frequently ask for money so why not think about ways to help them earn money rather than just giving it to them.  If your children’s school has classes that teach entrepreneurship, encourage your children to take them.  If there are after-school activities and clubs centered on business ownership and development, again, encourage your children to participate.  

Of course, the typical business idea for children is the ubiquitous lemonade stand.  However, there are many websites that have ideas for children’s businesses.  At the end of my blog, I will give you a website with some very creative suggestions.

The key component is the parents’ involvement to help start and run the business, as children cannot possibly do it themselves.  Please do not start a business and then give up because you allow other tasks or activities to take precedence.   Many factors must be considered before starting a business with your children, including the time commitment involved, the availability of financing, and the general logistics of where and how it will be operated.  As the old saying goes, failing to plan is planning to fail.  

Please visit this website for some business ideas for children: click 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.

Are Your Children Consuming Too Much Digital Media?

We have all seen it.  Parents are busy so they give their children some form of digital media to occupy their time while the parents get things done.  Often, it is a cell phone with games.  Other times, it is a laptop or other small device with games or a movie.  Have you ever stopped and thought about how much digital media your children consume each day and whether it is good for them?

In October, 2016, the American Academy of Pediatrics held a national  conference and discussed new health regulations for children for 2017.  One of the main topics was children and digital media.  The Academy had previously recommended limiting the amount of television viewing to children who are 2 years or older and no more than two hours a day.  However, since we have become saturated with all sorts of digital media, the Academy reviewed its recommendations and issued some new ones.

According to Dr. Jenny Radesky, “Families should proactively think about their children’s media use and talk with children about it, because too much media use can mean that children don’t have enough time during the day to play, study, talk, or sleep.”  The Academy stresses the fact that problems begin when digital media takes the place of what children need to be doing in the real world and can negatively affect their health.

Some of the new recommendations are:

1.    For children 18-24 months, do not allow them to use a screen except for video chatting.

2.    For children 2 to 5 years old, limit screen use to 1 hour of high quality media a day.

3.    For children 6 and older, parents should place consistent limits so that their children do not lose sleep and miss out on all the many fun things that children need to do. 

Next time, when you want to keep your children occupied, get them a good book to read.  They will learn new words and improve their comprehension skills.  Nothing can or should replace a good book!

To read more about the Academy’s recommendations, CLICK HERE.

Adding Audiobooks to Your Children’s Library

Adding Audiobooks to Your Children’s Library

I think that many parents overlook audiobooks because they may believe that listening to them is “cheating”.  They believe that the child does not really read such books, but simply listens to the narrator and therefore, gets no real benefit out of them.  In my opinion however, audiobooks can be an excellent addition to your children’s literary arsenal.  Just as I have promoted having a variety of reading materials for your children readily available, such as comic books, I would also include audiobooks.  

Read More

Helping Our Children Choose Their Friends

Do not be misled: bad company corrupts good character.
— 1 Corinthians 15:33 (NIV)
Soraya Coffelt

    As a parent, have you ever thought about helping your children choose their friends?  You may think – that’s not my role as a parent or my child should be able to choose his/her own friends.  In my humble opinion, I think that parents should play a huge role in who their children consider as friends and spend time with. 

    I was always on the look out for good friends for my sons.  Since I volunteered in the children’s ministry at my church, I had special insight into the children who attended.  I closely observed the child’s and parents’ demeanors.  Did the parents bring their children to church every Sunday or just once in a while?  Were they on time?  Were the children clean and fed?  Did they have good manners?  Did the parents and/or children use bad words?   Did the children tell lies?  What did the family do over the weekend?  Was reading and doing well in school important to the child and parents? 

    I took the scripture verse in 1 Corinthians 15:33 very seriously because I knew that bad company has a very negative effect on good character.  I wanted to raise two sons who would be Godly young men.  Yes, I was called a strict parent, but what is the alternative?  I encourage you to play a very active role in your children’s lives rather than just being a spectator. 

Author Soraya Diase Coffelt

Using Music to Help Children Build Language and Literacy Skills

Studies have shown that music helps students learn not only rhythm and motor skills, but importantly also language and literary skills.  One such study, by Professors Patricia Cullingham and Richard Allington in 2011, found that when we see or hear words in a new context, our brain creates new synapses (connections) to those words. Professors Cullingham and Allington advocate that children be exposed to vocabulary and other literacy skills in different and meaningful ways. Music has been a very effective tool in bringing meaning to new material including skills in literacy.  

How can parents use music to help their children with language and literacy skills? First, parents can use songbooks so that their children read the words and sing their favorite songs. Second, parents can sing songs with their children.  Visit this website for songs that build reading and language skills - CLICK HERE.

Third, take the words that are repeated in songs and read them in print.  Two books that can be used are Over the Rainbow and Puff the Magic Dragon, both beautifully illustrated by Eric Puybaret.  Fourth, encourage your children to take part in afterschool music ensembles that inspire creativity and involve expression through the arts.

Inspiring Family Reading

I have such fond memories of reading together as a family with my two sons and late husband.  As often as we could, we would huddle together on our bed and read a good book.  In the beginning, I would read out loud to everyone, but as the boys became better readers, they would read out loud to us.  How much time we spent reading together varied depending on our schedules and the type of book we were reading. 

    One of our most favorite books was the Hank the Cow Dog series by John Erickson.  We bought and read every single book in that series.  The series is about a dog named Hank and his sidekick Drover who lived on a ranch and had many funny adventures.  There were other characters who added exceptionally hilarious times, such as Pete the sly barn cat.  As we read, we would pause and laugh and then go back to reading.  We would stop reading whenever we wanted.  Sometimes, there would be an argument as to whether we should stop at a certain point or continue because of the suspense, but often, we read about a chapter a week.  We loved that series so much that we purchased and donated it to the library at my sons’ school.  

    I would like to inspire you to read as a family too.  The memories are precious and last a lifetime.  It is also a great bonding and teaching time for the kids. 

Author Soraya Diase Coffelt

 

The Important Role that Grandparents Play in Emphasizing Reading

    Grandparents are such influential people in the lives of our children.  One very important influence should be in building reading skills and emphasizing reading.  According to the Children’s Reading Foundation, grandparents can spoil their grandchildren in good ways by giving them a reading-rich lifestyle.

Here are some suggestions from the Foundation as to what grandparents can do whether they live close by or not:

  • Sing songs, recite poetry and do finger plays to help develop language and listening skills.
  • Play word games and do puzzles together. These activities provide wonderful opportunities to build vocabulary.
  • Offer books or magazine subscriptions as gifts for birthdays and other special occasions.
  • Invite your grandchild to the bookstore or library for story hour. Don’t rush. Take time to browse the books and to cuddle together in the cozy chairs. Time is your gift to give. 
  • Let your grandchild see you reading and enjoying books. When you’re together, read aloud the words on signs, menus, and captions under an interesting photograph in a magazine or newspaper.

Author Soraya Diase Coffelt

When was the Last Time that You Read to a Child in Your Lap?

Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.
— Emilie Buchwald

           Reading time with children should always be a fun time for you and them.  Have you thought about it also being a time to show your child your love?  When was the last time that you put your child in your lap and actually read to him/her?  This quote from Emile Buchwald is very touching to me.  Generally, children learn the love of reading from their parents.  They observe their parents reading.  Their parents spend time reading to them.  But, actually taking your child and sitting your child on your lap to read is extremely loving and personal.  It is saying to your child “I love you so much that I want to share this special time and book with you and build a loving relationship while we do it.” 

          Twenty years from now – what do you want your child to remember of the childhood years?  A mom or dad who were too busy to sit down and read a book to and with them?  Or a mom and dad who intentionally set aside time for the child to make the child feel loved and important?  Create memories now and build a reader while you are doing it.

Author Soraya Diase Coffelt