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

Riddles – Fun & Educational for Your Children

Riddles are often called brain teasers for a reason.  They help your children to think outside the box and in multi-dimensional ways.   When was the last time that you went over some riddles with your children?  Pick up a book at the library or a bookstore, or go to a website listed below to have some fun time.

I love riddles!  When you are driving with your children or spending time with them in other ways, asking them riddles is a great way to pass the time and help them learn.  After asking the riddle, try not to give the answer right away if your children are struggling to find the answer.  Help them on the journey to find that answer.  For example, here is a good riddle to get your children to think logically:

Q: You walk into a room with a match, a kerosene lamp, a candle, and a fireplace. Which do you light first?
A: The match.

If your children do not get the correct answer right away, ask such questions as: can a candle light itself? Of course, the answer is “no”.  Ask that same question for each of the other items – a kerosene lamp and a fireplace.  The answers would still be “no”.  For any of those 3 items to get “light”, you would have to light the match first. 

Please be warned that there are some very difficult riddles out there and some that do not make much sense.  Review the riddles yourself before asking them to your children.  Is the riddle age appropriate?  Will my child learn from the riddle?

Here are some websites that are filled with interesting and challenging riddles:

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.

Teach Your Children About Martin Luther King, Jr.

This Monday January 21 is celebrated as Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a federal holiday.  As children will be home from school, I encourage parents to spend time teaching their children about this icon of the civil rights movement. 

To assist you, I have searched the internet and can say that there is an abundance of information about him, but I would like to focus on what is available specifically for children.  At the end of this blog is a list of websites where you can find a plethora of information, including books.   PBS.org has a list of 17 excellent children books about him and others involved in the movement, such as Rosa Parks and Ruby Bridges, a 6 year-old heroine who was the first to integrate a New Orleans school back in 1960.  Spend some time with your children going to a book store to purchase a book or to the public library.  Once your child has a book, sit down and talk with him about it.  Ask questions.  This period of time is of such importance in our history.  You may even learn something new!

The Today Show just posted on its website an article about helping children to learn about King.  Depending on your children’s age groups, there are suggestions as to different types of discussions regarding the various people and issues of the time.  Several short videos are also provided on the webpage that share more interesting facts.

Additional recommendations can be found at the website care.com in an informative article about King.  Consider having your children participate in an art project or volunteer activity all about King and the movement.

Writer Erin Dower provides principles to talk about with your children in the online article 8 MLK Jr. Values to Instill in Your Kids.  I like this article because it gives simple yet profound values taken from King’s life and discusses how children can incorporate these values into their own lives. 

There is so much information available about King and the civil rights movement.  Please enjoy a relaxing day off on Monday, but also include time to help your children learn more about him and the immense reforms that came about because of his leadership and dedication.

Start the New Year with a Resolution to Exercise Together as a Family

A common new year’s resolution for adults is beginning a regular exercise routine or increasing the amount of weekly exercise.  At the beginning of this new year of 2019, please consider exercising together as a family.  Not only will this promote a healthier family lifestyle, but it will also build many fond memories.

I know that you may think that finding time for just you to exercise is difficult, but including your children in exercise routines can be much easier than you may initially think.   There are many articles online about adults and children exercising together.   Some of these articles are listed at the end of this blog post to help you.  What is important is planning.

What would you like to do for physical activity and exercise?  Prepare a routine for different days of the week and seek your children’s input.   Some exercises can be done inside at your home or gym, while others, outside, depending on the weather.  Also, some family exercise activities will require spending money, such as buying bikes or special sports equipment, while others will simply require you and your children to put on sneakers, pack some water, and walk out your front door.  It’s up to you to decide what you would like to do. 

One online article has excellent tips on family walks and how to prevent children from complaining and whining.   The key is to plan out your walk and make sure that you take time to enjoy what is happening around you, especially in nature, and talking with your children.

If biking together is what you would like to do, plan out the route to take from your home and back.  Many communities have bike paths to encourage biking fun.   Be creative.  On a weekend or holiday, add a picnic in the park too. 

The list of family exercise activities is long.  Your children will love spending time with you and you will enjoy spending time with them.  And, everyone is developing an important habit of exercising.  To me, that is a win-win scenario for everyone!

Here are some websites that provide a wealth of information to help you with this new year’s resolution:

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.

Caregiving and Children

Photo courtesy CNN

November is National Family Caregivers Month.  Many organizations such as AARP have information that is helpful to families who have caregivers.  In this week’s blog, I would like to write about children who are caregivers because oftentimes, we do not consider them as caregivers, even though there are many who are, and we do not consider the impact caregiving can have on them at a young age. 

My late husband was unable to walk for the last six years of his life, due to a stroke and the slow debilitating effects of Parkinson’s disease.   Our two sons assisted me with taking care of him for many years, so I can personally describe the difficulties we endured and how caregiving affected them.   

In the beginning, when my husband first became unable to walk on his own,  we, as a family, had to learn all about how to assist him with his day to day needs.  Of course, the most pressing need was transferring him out of the bed into a wheelchair and then from the wheelchair into a regular chair and then back again.  I relied on my sons to learn from the physical therapists and do this.   It was not easy for them, but they were able to master the transfer process, as they had to do it many times during the day and night.

It was important to me to continue to take my husband out for lunch or dinner and to different events, to keep him active and social.  My sons, of course, were there to assist with whatever we needed. 

My sons observed their father go from a successful businessman and active father, to one who was extremely limited physically due to his health challenges.  Communicating with them about their father’s decline in health was often difficult, as they too were suffering grief.  Their outlets were their friends and playing sports. 

I can honestly say that my taking care of their father was made easier with their love and assistance.  And, their father certainly enjoyed and appreciated their participation.  They showed love and honor to me and their father with their acts of kindness!

To read more about children as caregivers, please click here.

Is There Such a Thing as a Fun and Wholesome Party for Teens?

You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
— Matthew 5:13-16

As a parent of two sons who are now adults,  I understand the dilemma that Christian parents are in when it comes to allowing their teenage children to throw parties.  I am a strong proponent of offering our children alternatives, always remembering that we are called to be the salt and the light where ever we are. 

What does it mean when Jesus said that we are the salt of the earth?  Salt has been used for centuries as a preservative for food.  As Christians, we are called to be preservatives of men – to show the world what it means to live a godly life.  Also, salt enhances the taste of food.  We are called to be influencers in the world. 

What does it mean when we are called the light of the world? We are to have our lives shine forth as examples of what it is to be believers and followers of Christ.  We are not to conform ourselves to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of our minds.  Romans 12:2.  We are to set the examples!

How do these scripture verses relate to teenagers and parties?  In many different ways.  As I mentioned in the introductory paragraph, I am a proponent of offering our children alternatives.  When it comes to throwing parties, we should encourage our children to do so in godly ways, always being mindful that we are the salt and light of the world.  So, instead of discouraging them from parties, consider the impact of a wholesome party on all those in attendance.

Teens can have a great time in a wholesome environment but it takes a lot of planning.  Remember that at this age, they are social beings and love to have fun and interact.  Of course, food is critical.  Have a variety of  delicious snacks available.  Even consider an ethnic theme.  For example, I found Mexican food easy to cook and a hit with teens.  Instead of offering alcoholic beverages, have other choices, such as a tasty punch.  Teens love to play games, so have your children search the web for fun games to play.  They know what games they and their friends would like to play – do not force them to play a game that they do not want to. 

Your goal should be to make such an impression on the teens that they will realize that wholesome parties can, indeed, be a lot of fun and want to throw more.  Support your teens to be the salt and light of the world!

Websites where you can find great suggestions for games for wholesome parties:

Gaining Respect by Displaying Exemplary Behavior

The idea of respecting parents and other elders is practically engraved into the minds of all children everywhere from a very young age.  It is certainly important that they know to respect those around them, but it can be hard to put into practice when they are not being shown the respect they too deserve. Yes, deserve! Just as adults deserve politeness and deference, so do children.  Respecting children not only shows them how to treat other people, but it also increases their confidence and self-esteem.

Respect should be given out of love and not just as a result of an adult’s power. Punishments or bribes should never be the driving force behind obtaining your children’s respect.  Each person has value, whether young or old, and respect should be extended in recognition of that value.  Children deserve as much respect as adults because they are valued in the eyes of God.

1 Timothy 4:12 speaks of a message given to Timothy from his mentor, the Apostle Paul.  It was about setting an example for those around him by his maturity of speech, conduct, love, faith and purity. Timothy was a young church leader at the time and his youth may have caused some in the church to deem him imprudent.  That is why this message was so significant.  While we cannot be completely clear as to what these people thought of Timothy, we do know that it was important for him to understand how God had called him to present himself as a dedicated follower of Christ and a leader.

Though children and adults alike should regard one another with esteem, this verse discusses certain attributes to be found in young people that build respect:

  • Children are to speak positive words into the lives of others, praise God, and express gratitude for their blessings. That positivity should also extend into their actions.  Negative or curse words do not bring glory to God or establish that the person speaking them is mature.

  • Volunteering for church events and following through on commitments are examples of the conduct of an exemplary child.

  • The described ‘purity’ extends to spiritual purity as well as physical. Do they mean well in all their actions? Is their faith in God strong? The answer to these (and similar) questions should be “yes”.

Just as Paul advised his protégé Timothy, God wants the same from your children. He wants them to know that regardless of their age, they are worthy of respect.  Importantly, they are to carry themselves in a way that is pleasing unto Him and as they do so, they will gain more and more respect from those around them.

What is Wisdom?

Just what is wisdom?  Many people think that wisdom and knowledge mean the same and can be used interchangeably.  But that is not accurate.

Wisdom begins when we fear the Lord.   Proverbs 9:10 states "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding."   The word fear in this scripture does not mean that we are to be afraid of God – for example, if we do something that is wrong, it does not mean then He will strike us with lightning. 

It means instead that we are to love, honor and respect God.   In order to have wisdom, we must love, honor and respect God.  When we do, we walk in obedience to what God says we should do and say.

Proverbs 2:6 states that “the Lord gives wisdom & out of His mouth comes knowledge and understanding.”  When the Lord speaks, there is knowledge given to us.  And, this has knowledge been written down in the Bible.  The Bible is God’s Word.    As a result, reading the Bible - learning what the Lord has said - will give us knowledge.

Knowledge is also gained by learning and studying.  When we go to school, if we want to earn good grades, we read and study.  In other words, we gain knowledge, whether that knowledge is in geography, science or math for example.  So all our knowledge is in our heads – facts & information that we have collected over many, many years.

But how do we get wisdom?  As I mentioned, Proverbs 2:6 states that God gives us wisdom.  In other words, as we study the Bible and gain knowledge, God gives us the inside explanation of what His Word really means.  He gives us the inside ability and direction to figure things out – not using our natural minds, but being led by Him. 

The famous preacher Charles Spurgeon once wrote:

“Wisdom is the right use of knowledge.  To know is not to be wise.  Many men know a great deal, and are all the greater fools for it.  There is no fool so great a fool as a knowing fool. But to know how to use knowledge is to have wisdom.”

A person can have a lot of knowledge but not have the wisdom of God.   James 3:17 states: “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.”

How then do we get wisdom? It comes from heaven or God.  According to James 1:5 “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”   You might say to yourself – Is it that simple to get wisdom? Just ask God?  Yes, but of course you have to believe that God will give it to you.  You must have faith!

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

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 Benefits of Sensory Activities for Toddlers and Young Children

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

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

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

1.    Frozen shaving cream

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

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

4.    Homemade, edible finger paints

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

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

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

Who Are Your Children’s Role Models? Part 1

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The Meriam-Webster dictionary defines “role model” as a person whose behavior is imitated by others.  The entertainment media is constantly providing us with information about the so-called “stars” and role models - whether they are actors, musicians, singers, or other public figures.  Often, we see children and youth emulating the dress and behavior of these “stars”.   As Christians, we should have our own “stars” for our children – persons who are different, yet extraordinary role models.  And, these “stars” must start at home.  This week’s blog centers on the role models whom our children should have in their every-day lives.

            When I found this image for this week’s blog, I was very impressed and happy.  It says a tremendous amount in very few words, and I encourage you to  take your time to read it and talk about it with your spouse and other family members.  Please set aside some time to do so.  As people who are not Christians look to the world’s “stars” to give them inspiration for living, we Christians must choose a different standard – one that glorifies God. 

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.

What To Do When Your Children Are Acting Selfish

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
— Philippians 2:3-4

“Buy me that toy.” “Change the tv channel - my favorite show is on.” “Mommy - get off the computer- I’m bored.” Do any of these sound familiar? They are all statements we may have heard from our own children and brushed off as childish behavior. While interactions like these do happen, they should never become normal. Unchecked, your children can continue to develop these selfish qualities more and more.

Children usually do not make these statements out of malice for other people, but out of their understanding for their own needs and desires. The only thing that matters to them is what they want at that specific time. The key is to stop this behavior when it happens – right away.  Do not make excuses for and tolerate it.  

How many times have your children tugged at your clothing or verbally demanded your attention to tell you something while you were on the phone? The next time they do this tell them that you are having a conversation and that you will speak to them when it is over.  Be firm and polite.  And, be sure to actually speak with them about their inappropriate behavior and not go on to some other task.  When you do,  you can say something such as, “I was speaking with someone on the phone. Please do not interrupt me.  Save it until I am done. I would love to talk about it after I’m finished.” Let them know that their actions were selfish and why.  Catching them while they are doing the act is important to helping them stop it.  Talking with them about it helps them understand what they are doing wrong and why their behavior is wrong.

Children may not always comprehend why being “self-centered” is wrong. Today’s Bible verse is very helpful.  Philippians 2:3-4 says “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Prioritizing the needs of those around us above our own is important because God says it is. It brings out our best character, shows the people we interact with  that we care for and respect them, and most of all, it is pleasing unto God. Being self-centered completely contradicts His Word.

Show your children that their thoughts and feelings should not be the only ones that are heard and respected.  How are other children reacting to their selfish behavior?  For example, if your son has a friend over to play, but he is refusing to share his toys, stop him, take him out of the room, and talk to him about it.  Explain to him how his behavior is affecting his friend and making his friend feel.  Ask him what he can do to make his friend’s visit more pleasant.  When the discussion has finished, have him return to the room and observe his behavior to make sure that he is actually following through on different, kinder behavior.

When you observe your children being considerate of others and not being selfish, let them know that out loud to reinforce their positive behavior.  This is one of the most important ways to stop selfish behavior.  Take your time to describe the selfless act that was done and make it clear that everyone benefits when they act that way.

As parents, we want to be there for our children and provide for their needs.  It’s their constant wants and demands that we need to control so that they do not control us. 

Raising Happy Children

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

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

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

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

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

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