Teach Your Children Etiquette

Photo is from The New York Times

Etiquette is so important for our children to learn.  As a parent, you are probably thinking that they spend so much time at school learning various subjects, why should they now be burdened by learning proper etiquette? 

Etiquette is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “a customary code of polite behavior in society”.  In essence, it means good manners.  We should all strive to teach our children good manners, for their benefit, our benefit, and society’s as well.

There are many excellent online articles about teaching etiquette.   Experts agree that teaching etiquette should start from when the child is young and learning to talk.  Simple words such as “please” and “thank you” should become a part of a child’s early vocabulary. 

But, etiquette is much more than just a few buzz words.  In an online article at townandcountry.com, etiquette expert Myka Meier lists 20 lessons that a child should know:

•The true meaning of etiquette is always to show respect and kindness to everyone around you.

•Use please, thank you, and excuse me every day.

•How to hold your silverware correctly.

•How to properly use a napkin to wipe your mouth.

•How to chew with your mouth closed.

•No elbows on the table.

•Never interrupt an adult when he is speaking to someone else.

•Never comment on someone’s appearance unless it’s to say something nice.

•How to give a compliment to someone else.

•How to write a thank you letter.

•How to help someone in need, particularly if he is less able than you are.

•How to introduce yourself and others properly.

•Be aware of positive body language and how to show it.

•Never call an adult by his first name unless the adult instructs you to do so.

•Always knock on a door before opening it.

•How to answer a phone politely.

•How to make eye contact when speaking to another person.

•Don’t point or stare.

•Always cover your mouth when sneezing or coughing.

•How to invite someone to join a group if they are alone.

To read more, please go to:

https://www.townandcountrymag.com/society/a9641056/etiquette-lessons-children/

https://www.thespruce.com/teaching-your-children-basic-manners-1216584

The Harmful Effects of Plastic on Our Children’s Health

More and more studies are showing the dangers that the use of plastic is having on our health.  As parents, our concern is the effects on our children.  The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a report and policy statement in August, 2018 detailing the hazards to our children’s health posed by chemicals in plastic and making recommendations to assist persons in the health field and parents as to how to reduce exposure to these dangerous chemicals.  It found that “food insecurity remains a substantial child health concern”.

According to the report, increasing amounts of diseases and disabilities are being linked to harmful chemicals in plastic.  For example, the chemical bisphenol A or BPA has been frequently used since the 1960s in manufacturing plastic but research has shown the negative health effects it has. “BPA has recently been banned from infant bottles and plastic beverage containers are increasingly designated as BPA free. However, BPA and related compounds are still used in polymeric resin coatings to prevent metal corrosion in food and beverage containers.”  Be aware that, even though BPA may not be used in the plastic of a specific item, there are closely related chemical alternatives now being used that show similar negative health effects. 

The report lists many other chemicals and additives in food that pose harm to children.  Please read it for a good understanding of how these chemicals are shown to negatively affect our bodies.

The Academy’s policy statement is very helpful as well as it contains many practical recommendations such as:

• Avoid microwaving food or beverages (including infant formula and pumped human milk) in plastic;

• Avoid placing plastics in the dishwasher;

• Use alternatives to plastic, such as glass or stainless steel, when possible; and

• Look at the recycling code on the bottom of products to find the plastic type, and avoid plastics with recycling codes 3 (phthalates), 6 (styrene), and 7 (bisphenols) unless plastics are labeled as “biobased” or “greenware,” indicating that they are made from corn and do not contain bisphenols.

One other practical recommendation is drinking tap water rather than bottled water.   As for us parents, isn’t that so much easier, as you simply have to fill a glass or bottle from the tap?

Unfortunately, it is predicted that the use of plastics will quadruple by 2050.  That’s a sad testimony for us!

To read the full report and policy statement, please visit:

The Walking Classroom Successfully Promotes Exercise and Learning

I love to write about promoting learning and exercise for children.  Have you heard about The Walking Classroom, an award-winning national program initiated by a teacher and that is now sponsored by a nonprofit organization?  If you haven’t, let me tell you about this amazing program.

It was developed by Laura Fenn, M.S. Ed, who was a 5th grade teacher.  She observed that children in her classroom who were more active performed better academically.   She put together a program called Walk, Listen and Learn, and saw her students’ academic performances improve by the end of the year.  Before long, she expanded her program to different grade levels and promoted it nationwide.   

According to its website www.thewalkingclassroom.org, the program is for students in grades 3 to 8.  They take short walks of up to 20 minutes with walk-kit devices.  On the devices are up to 167 podcasts, each beginning with a brief  message on a health conscious topic and then subjects on English language, arts, social science, and much more.  There is even a series of podcasts for STEM.  All the podcasts meet nationally-approved standards. 

Teachers are provided with lesson plans and quizzes.  For students who need special attention, The Walking Classroom provides teachers with instructions for children who have ADHD, dyslexia, and autism.

Its website is filled with information about the program as well as how to participate.Please take a few minutes and look at what it has to offer.Many students will benefit from this type of teaching tool and it would be worthwhile to investigate all that this program has to offer.

Eating a Healthy Breakfast is Connected to Good Academic Performance

The beginning of a new school year is always challenging for parents and children.  We parents usually have different concerns than our children as we center our attention on how to assist them with doing well in all aspects of school.  Yet, we share with them the goal of good academic performance.  Science has shown that a child who starts the day with a good breakfast is already leaps ahead in performing well in school.

According to an online article on the website for the National Center for Biotechnical Information/National Institutes of Health, the importance of a healthy breakfast cannot be overstated yet it is the most frequently skipped meal, with 20% to 30% of children skipping it.

Studies “generally demonstrate that eating breakfast has a positive effect on children's cognitive performance, particularly in the domains of memory and attention.” Children who eat breakfast have an increase in cognitive performance, meaning an increase in attention skills so that they can perform their lessons well. This also translates to an ability to attend school regularly and remember information that is taught.  Additionally, their behavior in class is dramatically affected because they can concentrate better and perform the necessary tasks.

It is important for us to understand that children’s brains are developing and are different than those of adults.  The article points out that children have a higher brain glucose metabolism than adults.  “To maintain this higher metabolic rate, a continuous supply of energy derived from glucose is needed, hence breakfast consumption may be vital in providing adequate energy for the morning.”

Not only does breakfast assist a child academically, but it also helps the child to maintain proper body weight.  Children who skip are more likely to be overweight and not eat healthy snacks or satisfy the recommended daily vegetable and fruit intake.  Not surprising is the connection between skipping breakfast and “risky behaviors” such as smoking and experimenting with alcohol and drugs.

Plan for healthy breakfasts ahead of time.  Make them easy and fun.  There are plenty of books and online articles with suggested recipes.  Give your children the important start for their school day and help them reach their goals of academic success.

To learn more, go to:

Tweak Family Recipes to Make Them Healthier

Many of us have family recipes from grandparents, uncles, aunts or other relatives that have become family traditions.  Unfortunately, most are filled with unhealthy ingredients – lots of oil, butter or sugar, just to name a few.  Preserving these recipes are, nevertheless, important for us as part of our family heritage.  I have written before about having children assist with cooking meals to encourage more family bonding time and as well as for them to read more as they learn to follow written recipes.  Today, I would like to discuss teaching your children healthier options for recipes as part of your family cooking experiences.

On his website, Dr. Joseph Galati, founder of Your Health First Education, a 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to provide education and support to the public about nutrition, has an article Tweaking Grandma’s Recipes: Healthy Substitutes, which has many suggestions for substitutions.  For butter, oil and margarine in recipes that involve baking, he recommends using applesauce or mashed fruit. For frying, grilling or sautéing, he recommends substituting one-half with olive oil or coconut oil.  For regular sugar, try substituting one-half with locally sourced honey.  For brown sugar, he suggests adding 1 tablespoon of maple syrup to the honey.  For mayonnaise in recipes, substitute plain yogurt.  On a sandwich, try pesto or drizzles of olive oil.  Dr. Galati has many more recommendations and I encourage you to read his entire article.

Traditional family meals bring families together to continue bonding and building life-long friendships.  Substituting more healthy ingredients will keep these traditions alive and be teachable moments for your children.  

To read more, CLICK HERE.

Help Your Children Build Their Social Skills

It’s summer and your children should be out meeting new people and working on their social skills.  What can parents do to encourage their children to become more social?  Telling them “Go out and make friends” just doesn’t do it.

I recently came across an article entitled Social Skills Activities for Children and Teens: Evidence-based Games and Exercises by Gwen Dewar Ph. D. at the website below which contains 17 social activities for children that all derive from research.  Dr. Dewar states that “to develop and grow, kids need first-hand experience with turn-taking, self-regulation, teamwork, and perspective-taking.”  She presents many wonderful ideas for activities for your children, from toddlers to teenagers. What I like so much about this article is the amount of research that she references to support the suggested activities.

One of the interesting activities is to help children learn how to read facial expressions better.  People who read expressions well have been found to be more helpful towards others.  Dr. Dewar provides a separate link to another online article on facial expressions and that article delves more deeply into why having children learn to read facial expressions is important in developing their social skills.  There is quite a bit to learn!

Another interesting activity (remember that there are 17 in all!) is to have children read a story with emotional content and then ask the children to talk about it.  Dr. Dewar concludes as follows based on the research: “When kids participate in group conversations about emotion, they reflect on their own experiences, and learn about individual differences in the way people react to the world. And that understanding helps kids develop their ‘mind-reading’ abilities.”  At the same time, children learn about their emotions and the emotions of others.

I suggest that you read the entire article and then select an activity to do as your and your children’s schedules permit.  There is a lot that they can learn and have a fun time as well.  

For more information, please CLICK HERE.

When Was the Last Time That You Took Your Child to Work?

Keeping your children’s brains continually active during the summer vacation months is a challenge.  I will continue to provide a number of ways for you to do so in my blog posts.  In this week’s blog post, I suggest considering setting aside a day to bring your children to work with you to see and learn about what you do for your profession.  There is a national day set aside for bringing your children to work during the month of April, but I think that summertime may be a good time as well to have them visit.  Be sure to speak with your employer first and get the visit approved.  And, importantly, plan for what they will be doing.

There are some excellent ideas at the website below that you can use.   You will need to plan for and cater to children of different ages.  Please remember that this is not a free-for-all to have your children running around the office or having co-workers babysit for you.  This is a teachable time for your children. You can plan for a half-day or full-day visit and include other parents who may be interested as well.

You should also consider having your children visit the workplace of a close friend or relative.  That way, they will learn about a variety of professions.

Be sure to talk with them at the end of the day about what they have learned.  Ask them questions and listen to their answers.  Take the time to help them understand what your profession is all about.  They are growing and learning and need your assistance.

For more ideas, please CLICK HERE.

Plan College Visits with Your Children During Summer Vacation

Summer vacation is a wonderful opportunity to visit different colleges during your travels.  Let’s face it – a college degree has almost become a must have for a successful future.  By encouraging your children at an early age to begin considering attending college, they will be focused and ready when the time comes to narrow the choices and make the ultimate selection.

My late husband and I did just that.  When we visited family for Christmas vacation one year, we all went to take a tour of a local university in the city.  We made it a family affair: included our two sons, uncles, aunts, cousins and grandma.  Our oldest son complained about it as he just wanted to “have fun” during his Christmas break, but reluctantly went along.  It turned out to be an interesting and informative opportunity to visit the university, tour the grounds, and talk with various representatives.  Our sons took other campus tours at various colleges with their classmates, but guess where both our sons attended college?  Yes – at that same university we toured during that break!

Be sure to visit the college’s website and find out when there are tours available.  It is best to join a formal tour provided by the college than to just wander around the campus not knowing the area.  During the tour, you can ask important questions about scholarship programs, financial aid, dorm living, etc.  You can always wander about after the formal tour!

To learn more about the benefits of college tours, CLICK HERE.

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!

Getting Your Children Involved with Nature

Summer is the perfect time to get your children outdoors and involved with nature - luring them away from mobile devices, computers, and television screens.  In an excellent online article for The Washington Post, 10 Ways to Get Your Kids Out in Nature, and Why It Matters, author Lauren Knight explains why your children’s physical and psychological well-being will benefit in a myriad of ways by exploring nature.

It all starts with the parents, Ms. Knight writes.  If parents are enthusiastic and curious about nature, their children will be too.   Ms. Knight recommends to just “sit and observe” at a specific area.  Don’t have busy distractions.  I typically encourage in my blogs for parents to ask questions and not simply give children answers.  Help your children look at different aspects of nature, ask questions, and search for the answers themselves. 

Try an outing at a planetarium and then lay out on the open grass and gaze at the stars at night.  By first visiting the planetarium, you will get more information about the constellations and what to look for.  When gazing up at the stars at night, your child will have a better understanding and truly get to enjoy and appreciate such spectacular beauties.

Planting a garden is another way to enjoy nature.  From planting seeds to eating the crops, children can have a lot of fun.  Have your children assist in purchasing all the items you will need for the garden as well as planting and watering.  They will learn much more by doing than just watching.

There are many books that she recommends for children that involve nature.  Visit the website link below and see the list of books.  There are some for young children as well as older children.

Find out what outdoor activities are available in your community.  Summer is an especially good time for children to be outside and enjoying themselves. 

Please read the entire article by CLICKING HERE.

Helping Your Young Teens Find Summer Jobs

I don’t usually write about issues relating to young teens but thought a blog post about helping them find summer jobs would be informative.  As a teenager, I wanted to work during the summers to earn that extra bit of spending money and I’m sure that like me, your children are eager to do the same.  Of course, you should first check the employment laws of your state to find out the age that your children can start working at an official job and if a work permit is required.  There are full and part-time jobs that your early teens, especially, may be willing to do.

Babysitting is at the top of the list.  I did that a lot during my teenage years – both during the day, when necessary, but mostly in the evenings.  As I babysat for one family, soon other families heard about how good I was and then I was in high demand.  I eventually limited babysitting to one family who used my services frequently. 

If your young teen enjoys being with children and is mature and responsible, consider babysitting.  It is not all fun and games, though, as the safety and well-being of children are involved.  Your child should be prepared for all that may happen, with you as the parent being available as a backup in the event of an emergency.  A great babysitting training course is offered by the Red Cross in many areas, both in person and online.  The link to the course is provided below.  Being a certified Red Cross babysitter will give your child bonus points for prospective employers.

Being a dog walker and pet sitter are also age-appropriate jobs.  Families travel a lot during the summer so they need someone to take care of their pets.  Again, your young teen must like pets. Have your child become familiar with the pet and the pet familiar with him before taking the job.  Make sure that he understands all the feeding and walking instructions before the family leaves.  Also make sure that the route for the walk is safe for the child and the dog.  Your child should not walk the dog in unfamiliar areas.

House sitting is another job that is available in the summer, as families travel.  The duties usually involve watering plants, picking up the mail and packages, mowing the lawn, and keeping an eye out for anything that is happening around the house.

There are many opportunities for your young teen to get out of the house during the summer and earn some money.  Help him network and prepare.  He will benefit tremendously.

Please check out this website for more information on the Red Cross babysitting training course: CLICK HERE

Should You Take Your Child’s Friend on Vacation?

The summer months are quickly approaching.  What are your family’s summer vacation plans?  Often, parents with an only child consider bringing along their child’s friend.  Please don’t make this decision in haste or just because your child begs you to.  There is a lot to consider and here are a few helpful suggestions.

Who will pay the costs?  This is a very important issue that needs to be addressed with the other parents.  Gather all your information first – such as transportation costs, hotel costs, approximate cost for food, costs for renting equipment (such as swim or snorkel gear), costs for admission to various theme parks and movie theaters, etc.   You might initially think that there would not be much extra cost, but once you sit down and plan it out, the high cost may surprise you.  In the end, you may just decide to bear the entire cost for the friend to make this a more enjoyable vacation for your child. 

What will you do for discipline? Since your form of discipline for your child may not be what the other parents approve of, this is also a critical topic to discuss.  There should be clear guidelines established beforehand.  But, even prior to your discussions with them, how well do you know the child?  Is the child one who is well-behaved and respectful when in your company?  Is this friendship one that you as a parent would like to encourage?  As Christians, we should always be mindful of who our children are friends with and who can influence them.  1 Corinthians 15:33 states “Bad company ruins good morals.” (ESV).

What will you do in the event medical care is needed? Again, this needs to be planned out.  In the event of a medical emergency, you will need to have the authority to obtain and provide medical care for this child.  Make sure you have the legal authority to do so.   Often, a copy of the child’s health insurance card and a letter from the parents is enough. 

When I was growing up, I went on many trips with my best friend as she was an only child.  We all had a lot of fun, parents included.  But, that all stemmed from them knowing me and my parents well, as well as me knowing them well.  I felt comfortable being with them and was not a discipline problem.  It all worked out wonderfully! 

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.

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.