Tryout Tips for Parents: 5 Tips for Helping Your Child Make the Team

By CoachUp

sports-teamAs the upcoming sports season approaches, our throats begin to tighten. Winter and spring sports tryouts are underway, and our children are stressed. Chances are, you’re feeling just as anxious for tryouts as your kids.  Best case scenario, they make the team and happily transition into the regular season, worst case they don’t and they come to you in a whirlwind of emotion that leaves you struggling to find a resolution.

If you’re looking for a more concrete way to improve your child’s skills, CoachUp is a great resource for families looking to hire one in their area. There are a variety of private coaches that will fit your, or your child’s, needs. With experienced instructors from squash to basketball to strength and conditioning, CoachUp coaches are qualified and have all been background checked for safety.

If a private coach doesn’t pique your interest, there are definite steps you can take to help your child make the team. These tryout tips for parents from CoachUp will help guide you through both tryouts and a successful sports season.

1. Rome wasn’t built in a day, put in the prep

Encourage your child to begin practicing on a steady gradient from casual to intense sessions a month before preseason begins. Have them start their practice at about 30 min every other day increasing to an hour or two each day the week before. You shouldn’t put too much pressure on them to be perfect, but do convey that it is important to be well conditioned before the first day. Suggest that they play around with their friends or future teammates. This will help them get a feel for the competition early so that they can assess for themselves how much practice they need to be doing. During the first week, help them ease their nerves by reminding them how much great practice they’ve been doing, they’re ready for this.

2. Eat, Sleep, Play

Sleep and nutrition are extremely important for your child’s well being in the first weeks of preseason. Make sure that your child gets a great night sleep not just the night before the first day, but also the whole weekend before. Help them gear up by preparing healthy meals in the weeks before and during tryouts. Making great breakfasts and nutritious packed lunches during preseason will help take some of the load off your child and show them that you’re there for support.

3. Pencil it in now…not later

Creating a schedule for your child’s sports season seems like an obvious step, but it is an incredibly important one. List all practices, games, team dinners, etc. along with their times and locations. Consider linking up with other parents to make a carpooling schedule and to exchange information in case of emergency. Securing a time effective transportation system for the preseason will take the burden off your child. Children often feel stressed or judged by coaches or teammates when their parents are late or forget an event, so showing them you’ve got it all under control will ease their nerves.

4. Be a good sport, Mom and Dad

Reacting positively to coaches’ decisions, results of a game, or practice schedules will set a good example for your child. Sympathize and suggest alternatives if they are upset, but do not intervene or create unnecessary drama. Obviously there are always special cases, but use your best discretion to pick your battles. Your child will learn from your constructive attitude, which will reflect positively on the playing field.

5.  Put it into perspective

Last but not least, be sure to encourage and motivate your child while putting it all in perspective. Sometimes kids can get overwhelmed with tryouts and overreact. If they perform poorly in a drill or scrimmage, prevent them from wanting to give up by presenting the positive sides. They can make it up the next day, or if not, there’s always next year or other activities. Remind them that you’re proud of them no matter what.

Make tryouts as easy as possible for your children. If you take care of their schedule, meals, and transportation, they can freely focus on their game. Your children will be less stressed and perform their best when they know you’ve got their back, both logistically and emotionally. So here’s to a successful, best case scenario sports season, your children will thank you!


About CoachUp

CoachUp is a service that connects athletes with private coaches, believing that private coaching is the secret to reaching the next level in sports + life.  The CoachUp mission is to help change the trajectory of kid’s lives through sports. CoachUp has won numerous awards, including the 50 On Fire “Top 50 Hottest Companies in Boston” and  the Gold Prize at MassChallenge.  Backed by a stellar investment team including General Catalyst, Breakaway Innovation Group, and Founder Collective.

Steering the helm at CoachUp is CEO and Founder, Jordan Fliegel, a young entrepreneur whose passion for sports goes beyond his business. Jordan firmly believes his life was changed when his father enlisted the help of a private coach to step up his basketball game as a teenager.  Fliegel’s experience with private coaching led to a successful academic and basketball career at the college and professional level.  He returned to Boston to start CoachUp and pay it forward by coaching youth basketball players. For more information visit


101 Fun Things to Do with Kids This Summer

by Ilene Jacobs, Contributor

summerSummer may be a time to relax, but tell that to kids who are bouncing off the walls or shrieking “I’m bored” every five minutes. How on earth are parents and nannies supposed to keep kids entertained, active and out of trouble for an entire summer?

The trick is to plan ahead. Brainstorm ideas for things to do now, so you don’t wind up spending the entire summer watching cartoons.

Jill Tipograph, summer expert and founder of Everything Summer, suggests that you: “Take advantage of those bright sunny days and warm summer nights and plan something new a couple of times a week. Outdoor adventures don’t have to be extreme — explore a new neighborhood or walk as a family to get a healthy after-dinner snack.”

Jesse Koller, mom and publisher of the parenting blog Play, Create and Explore, likes to keep kids entertained with crafts. Sheeven holds regular art workshops for local kids. “We have a blast focusing on mostly process art and projects, as well as some sensory activities.”

Start creating your summer bucket list today. If you need inspiration, we’ve come up with 101 things that will keep kids happy — and you sane.

  1. Bake cookies for ice cream sandwiches.
  2. Volunteer at a nature center.
  3. Make a photo journal or a family yearbook.
  4. Have a luau in the backyard.
  5. Visit the beach and collect shells.
  6. Make a fort out of cardboard boxes.
  7. Visit a farmer’s market.
  8. Pick berries at a nearby orchard.
  9. Have a picnic at a state park.
  10. Make ice cream. Tipograph loves using YayLab’s ice cream ball, which you fill with ice cream base and kick around until frozen.
  11. Go canoeing at a local lake.
  12. Build a sandcastle.
  13. Write and illustrate your own book and have it published into an actual hardcover book using IlluStory.
  14. Forget cooking — set up an ice cream sundae buffet for dinner.
  15. Clean up trash at a local park.
  16. Have a backyard campfire…or just use the grill! Roast hot dogs on sticks, pop popcorn and finish off with s’mores.
  17. Stage an A to Z scavenger hunt, where you have to find something that starts with every letter.
  18. Make homemade pizza.
  19. Print out a list of children’s books that have won Caldecott Medals. Visit the local library throughout the summer and try to read as manyas you can.
  20. Go for a walk and then make a collage from nature objects you find along the way.
  21. Take bread to a creek and feed the ducks.
  22. Have a water balloon fight.
  23. Practice your origami skills and make objects to hang from the ceiling.
  24. Go biking on a trail
  25. Interview an older relative about what life was like when they were young.
  26. Plan a picnic at a local park — or in your backyard.
  27. Set up a lemonade stand.
  28. Create salad spinner art: Place circles of paper inside a cheap salad spinner, dab tempera paints on top, cover and spin away.
  29. Practice making interesting shadow puppets and then put on a show with your characters.
  30. Plant a garden of herbs and veggies.
  31. Make a sidewalk chalk mural.
  32. Go ice blocking (sledding) in the grass with a towel-covered block of ice.
  33. Have an outdoor painting party using huge canvases or cardboard.
  34. Visit a fish hatchery.
  35. Plant a butterfly garden with flowers.
  36. Pretend to be pirates for a day — dress up in costumes, plan a treasure hunt and talk like a pirate.
  37. Make an indoor sandbox using colored rice: mix 4 cups of rice with 3 tablespoons of rubbing alcohol and a few drops of food coloring and let dry overnight.
  38. Turn the backyard into a carnival — set up a face painting area and games like ring toss.
  39. Make totem poles out of paper towel rolls and decorate them.
  40. Visit a museum you’ve never been to.
  41. Make a giant hopscotch or Twister game on the lawn (with spray paint) or driveway (with chalk).
  42. String beads into jewelry.
  43. Make a bird house out of Popsicle sticks.
  44. Learn about stargazing and identify as many constellations as possible — see if there are any local astronomy groups for kids.
  45. Create leis with wildflowers.
  46. Go fossil hunting near a lake.
  47. Break out your baseball gloves and start a game, sandlot style.
  48. Make paper boats and race them in a kiddie pool using straws to propel them.
  49. Play mini-golf — or set up a course in your driveway by laying different size containers on their sides.
  50. Make your own colored sand and create sand art.
  51. Get a map of the United States and mark off all the exciting places you want to visit — create the ultimate road trip.
  52. Set up a net and play badminton and volleyball.
  53. Visit an amusement park or water park.
  54. Wade through a stream and search for minnows or tadpoles.
  55. Go zip-lining.
  56. Have a tricycle race at the park.
  57. Investigate an ethnic grocery store and make lunch using interesting spices and kid-friendly international recipes.
  58. Visit a fire station.
  59. Collect rocks and paint them to use as paperweights or pet rocks.
  60. Go roller skating.
  61. Visit a zoo or aquarium to learn about animals.
  62. Run through the sprinklers.
  63. Blend your own smoothie.
  64. Set up a bike wash and raise money for a local charity.
  65. Batter up at a batting cage.
  66. Let kids paint the sidewalk or patio with plain old water and sponge brushes. When their creation dries, they can begin again.
  67. Bake cupcakes in ice cream cones and then decorate them.
  68. Assemble a family cookbook with all your favorite recipes.
  69. Go horseback riding.
  70. Make popsicles in Dixie cups using fruit juices.
  71. Catch fireflies in a jar (and let them go at the end of the night).
  72. Stage your own Summer Olympics with races, hurdles and relays.
  73. Create a backyard circus — kids can pretend to be animals and dress up as clowns.
  74. Decorate bikes and have a neighborhood Fourth of July parade.
  75. Take a sewing/crochet/knitting class.
  76. Make Mexican paper flowers using different colored tissue paper.
  77. Go to a flea market.
  78. Volunteer at an animal adoption organization.
  79. Visit a retirement home and read stories to residents.
  80. Attend an outdoor festival or concert.
  81. Pick a nearby town to visit for the day.
  82. Visit a cave.
  83. Get a map of your area, mark off all the local parks — then visit them, take pictures and vote for your favorite.
  84. Take in a fireworks exhibit.
  85. Make crafts with recyclable items like stickers using old photos, magazines and repositionable glue.
  86. Make your own hard-to-pop bubbles with 1 cup of distilled water, 2 tablespoons of Dawn dish soap and 1 tablespoon of glycerin.
  87. Paint canvas sneakers with fabric paint pens or acrylic paint.
  88. Create three dimensional buildings using toothpicks and mini-marshmallows.
  89. Make bird feeders by covering pine cones with peanut butter and rolling in birdseed.
  90. Paint with ice by freezing ice cube trays with washable tempera paint.
  91. Create unusual s’mores by experimenting with ingredients like cookies, bananas, flavored marshmallows and white chocolate.
  92. Have a fancy tea party.
  93. Make a giant slip-n-slide with a painter’s tarp and shaving cream.
  94. Have a backyard camp-out.
  95. Let kids paint each other with washable tempera paint, then wash it off in the sprinklers.
  96. Visit a national park and help the kids earn a junior ranger badge.
  97. Go to a ballgame and teach your kids (and yourself!) how to keep a scorecard.
  98. Set up a tent in the backyard to use as a summer playhouse.
  99. Take a free kid’s workshop at stores like Lowe’s, Home Depot or Pottery Barn.
  100. Have a game night with charades, Pictionary and bingo.
  101. Take a boring brown paper bag and have kids brainstorm creative things to do with it — you’ll be surprised at how many things you can come up with.

Ilene Jacobs is a Contributor for (, the largest online care destination in the world.

Celebrate Mother’s Day Creatively

mirrorMother’s Day is almost here! It’s dad’s turn to help the kids get creative to make it a special day for mom. Crayola has some fun and easy ideas that kids of any age can participate in:


Greet mom in the morning with a special message on the bedroom window or the bathroom mirror Washable Window Markers. [Craft Details]

Jazz up mirrors. Make dazzling picture frames. With colorful Crayola® Washable Window Markers you can change designs whenever you wish.

1.Could you spruce up a mirror in your house with seasonal or fanciful borders? Or could you transform a plain picture with a decorative edge inside the frame? Check with an adult before you start to make Markered Mirrors.

2.Think up ways to brighten mirrors or picture frames. Some suggestions: Surround a mirror with “Happy Birthday” for a morning surprise. Create holiday decorations such as hearts for Valentine’s Day. Draw a string of colored lights for Christmas. Add an “I love you” border around your picture for a gift. Repeat or embellish designs from nearby wallpaper or clothing in a picture.

3.Use Crayola Washable Window Markers to draw a colorful border around the edge of your mirror or on the glass inside your picture frame.

4.When you are ready for a change of scene, just wipe with a damp paper towel and make a new design.


Personalize placemats to decorate the table for a surprise Mother’s Day breakfast/lunch/dinner using Ultra-Clean Washable Markers. [Craft Details]

Place others first and you’ll make someone smile! Show you care by creating a placemat to donate to an agency that provides meals to people who are homeless, elderly, or disabled.

1. There are lots of terrific kids who help others, care for the environment, and make their communities better places to live! What can you do to help others in your community? Here’s a great idea to inspire you: Design a placemat to donate to a service organization, such as one that provides meals for people who may be lonely or unable to leave their homes.

2. With Crayola Scissors, cut cotton or 50/50 cotton/polyester fabric into a placemat. Put on your painting shirt, and cover your work surface with clean paper. Crayola® Fabric Markers stain clothing and surfaces, CLOSE ADULT SUPERVISION IS REQUIRED.

3. Use a ruler and Crayola Fabric Markers to separate sections on the fabric. Each section can be a different size and shape.

4. Create a cheerful design with large and small shapes, colors, or patterns. Add stripes or dots to fill each section with color.

5. Designs must be heat set by an adult so the placemat can be laundered. Set the iron to cotton. Iron on the reverse side using a back and forth motion for 4 minutes. Or put the placemat in the dryer for 30 minutes on the hottest setting.


Create a portrait for mom on the sidewalk or in a chalkboard frame using 48 ct. Washable Sidewalk Chalk that provides you with the largest variety of colors.


Customize mom’s favorite picture of the family by drawing a picture-frame border with Color Wonder markers that only appear on Color Wonder paper. [Craft Details]

Make memories with this easy-to-make, no-mess frame. Kids can display their own art or photos of themselves, pets, and family members.

1. Decide whether your picture frame will be a gift or for yourself. What picture will you put inside the frame? You could draw one, or ask an adult if it’s OK to frame a photograph.

2. To mark the frame’s four borders, firmly crease its inside edges in a piece of Crayola® Color Wonder™ Paper.

3. With Crayola Color Wonder Markers, draw and color a pattern to make your Bright Borders. What decorations go well with the picture you are framing?

4. Fold the creases in both directions. Carefully tear along the folds to remove the blank center of your frame.

5. Attach your art to the back of the frame with a Crayola Glue Stick. For extra support, glue cardboard on the back.


Get Your Children Outside and Moving

girl-outsideThe headline “43 percent decrease in childhood obesity,” has been all over the news lately. But what they aren’t headlining is that this is only in children ages 2-5 years. According to the newest study by the Journal of the American Medical Association, the childhood obesity rate is 17 percent, which has not changed much over the past 10 years.

Sure, cutting down on sugary drinks and snacks may help your child’s health, but the real way to ensure a healthy lifestyle is exercise. Get your child outdoors and moving this spring with this list of activities!

Go Jump

Jumping on a trampoline is an excellent way for you child to have fun while unknowingly burning tons of calories! Jumping for 10 minutes is the cardio-equivalent of running one mile! It may seem like an expensive investment to buy a jump tramp, but the health benefits for your children are vast! We recommend buying a safety net, like these nets by JumpSport, to avoid any injuries while jumping. Is buying a trampoline not quite in your budget? Jumping rope can be just as affective! After 10 minutes of jumping rope, you burn just as many calories as if you jogged for 30 minutes. Check out this list of jump rope rhymes to teach your child to make it fun!

Get Pedaling

Riding a bike is great exercise for kids of all ages. This under-rated cardio workout strengthens the arms, legs and back while giving your heart a workout too. Research shows a 135-pound woman pedaling 12-14 miles per hour burns 488 calories in just one hour—so accompanying your child on bike rides will provide you with a nice workout as well! While bicycling is a great form of exercise, doing so on the streets can be dangerous. Make sure your child stays safe on the roads by always wearing a helmet and equipping their bike with lights, such as Coghlan’s Adhesive Signal Light. Don’t know how to get your child started with biking? Watch this video on children’s biking progression.

Head to the Park

Give your children some outdoor playtime at the park this spring, and exercise will come with it! Thank of all the workouts your child gets: swinging, climbing the monkey bars and ladders, running, even on the teeter-totter! Playgrounds are full of opportunities for your child to burn calories. It can be hard to find time to exercise as an adult. Take advantage of your child’s play time and fit in a workout yourself by following these park exercises!

Start Hooping

Hula Hooping is a great way to get your children exercising without them even knowing it! Hooping for only 30 minutes can burn up to 300 calories! This easy-to-do activity strengthens over 30 core muscles while working on flexibility and balance. Check out to see how hula hooping has changed the lives of children and find out more about hooping classes and camps!

Skate Away

Rollerblading/skating is the perfect way to get your kids outside and moving! Just 30 minutes at a steady pace can burn up to 285 calories. Rollerblading improves strength and endurance as well as flexibility and balance. Similar to biking, rollerblading requires safety gear such as helmets, wrist guards and kneepads to keep your child safe! Not sure how to get your child started? Livestrong provides a great how-to teach your child to rollerblade on its blog! If your child is very young and steadily growing, try Fisher-Price’s Grow With Me Inline Skates until he or she has a more stable shoe size. Rollerblade USA’s kids’ skates, such as the Spitfire XT, are made to adjust up to four sizes and features a tutorial on the website on how to adjust them.

Sign Them Up

Whether its swim, dance, basketball, soccer or martial arts—sign your children up! Getting them involved in athletic and aerobic activities from an early age will set the precedent for the rest of your child’s life. Start your child’s active and healthy lifestyles today!

Introducing your child to any of the above activities is great, but make sure you set a good example as well! Stay active yourself and encourage family exercise. According to a study done at the University of Michigan, overweight or obese children have an 80% chance of being overweight or obese as an adult. You can change the outcome of your child’s life right now!

5 Simple Steps for Better Grades

By Rick and Teena Kamal


studyMost parents realize that helping their children set goals is important, but few realize that not all goals are created equal. While some goals can empower children to get better grades and achieve academic success, others can actually discourage children or cause them to become frustrated and overwhelmed.


How do you know the difference between a goal that inspires and one that is counterproductive? Here are five steps to help your child create goals that lead to academic and professional success:


  1. Inspire Dreams and Translate them into Long-Term Goals – When children are small, they’re often asked what they want to be when they grow up. Parents laugh lightheartedly as their tots talk about becoming ballerinas and astronauts.  As children get older, however, parents too often discourage those lofty dreams. When this happens children can grow complacent and lose their passion for their future. As youngsters enter middle and high school, help them revisit their dreams and begin thinking seriously about their personal and professional goals. Talk to your child about her future openly and without judgment. Allow her to dream as big as she wishes, and encourage her to jot down several long-term goals she hopes to achieve as an adult. Once children see the connection between their dreams and achieving academic success, they’re much more likely to put in the effort to make better grades.


  1. Transform Long-Term Goals Into S.M.A.R.T. Goals – An important part of the goal setting process is make sure all goals are S.M.A.R.T. – Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Go through your child’s long-term goal list, and together, decide which goals to keep, which to modify, and which to discard. Then work with this refined list to transform these long-term goals into their short-term S.M.A.R.T. counterparts. Make sure each short-term goal has a definite starting and ending point, so that you child doesn’t fall prey to procrastination.


  1. Make an Action Plan for Each Short-Term Goal – Help your child develop an action plan for each short-term goal. For example, if your child has decided that she wants to make better grades in English, then her action plan may consist of tasks such as reading for an hour each day, joining a study group and spending an extra 30 minutes of study time on this subject each night. Post this plan in a place where your child will see it every day, and help her be accountable for completing daily tasks.


  1. Monitor Progress and Adjust Goals Regularly – Schedule specific times to review progress and adjust goals as needed. If your child has met a goal on the list, set a new goal to encourage continual progress. If your child is making little progress despite remaining committed to his daily action plan, then you may need to reevaluate how realistic the goal is and modify it accordingly.


  1. Reward Success – Be sure to appropriately praise and reward your child’s efforts to achieve her goals. Whether you grant her a special privilege, give her a tangible reward, or simply pat her on the back for a job well done, be sure to take time out from your busy schedule to recognize her triumphs.


By following these steps you can help your child stay motivated as he follows his own unique path to success.


About the Authors: Study and life skills experts Rick and Teena Kamal founded EduNova to prepare students to lead and thrive in the global economy. They worked with 33 top university education experts and many successful senior executives to produce resources that empower middle school, high school and college students to succeed. Learn more at

Tips For Children About the Basics of Money

by Patrick Bet-David

kids-moneyIt’s not that kids shouldn’t have fun, but today’s distractions are taking too much time from more important things like learning about money. Whether kids are going to the movies, shopping for clothes or music, buying a car, trying to help support their parents or even working a couple of jobs to pay for college, money is and always will be an important part of our lives.


Use these tips for children to learn about the basics of money:


Start a habit of saving money – Whether someone gives you five bucks or you just got your first paycheck, whatever money you are making, try to save at least 10% in an account that you try hard not to touch.


Start a budget – Open up your own savings account and learn the basics of having a bank account. Start a budget and learn to manage it.


Shop around – It’s tempting to see something we like and buy it on the spot, and that’s called instant gratification. But if you go online or wait a couple of months for a sale, that same item may cost less which saves you money.


Avoid credit cards at all costs – If you plan on buying an awesome car, buying a house one day, or being taken seriously in any business venture, your credit score will play a huge role in how much financial companies will trust your spending habits.


Focus on earning – Saving is very important, but if you’re not earning money you won’t have any to save. Start thinking like an entrepreneur at an early age. Open a lemonade stand, car washing business or pet walking service. The key is to offer a service that people are willing to pay for.


Expect more – People usually make the amount of money they feel they are worth, and most people sell themselves short. Teach children to have a high self-image, and they will create a world for themselves that meets that self-image.


Download an app on your phone – There are so many apps for managing your budget and savings on phones nowadays that you can track your money on the go. Get in the habit of keeping tabs on your spending habits.  Kids will have more fun doing this on their phones and tablets.


Bet-David says there is a difference between just saving money and building an awesome financial foundation, but it’s a good idea to start with the basics.

8 Ways to Stay Connected With Your Kids

by Kathi Lipp

happy familyI thought I was close to my kids. Then I bought my daughter a toothbrush. That’s when I found out how clueless I really was.

“Mom! A Barbie toothbrush! How could you buy me a Barbie toothbrush?” Kimberly shrieked.

“Sweetie, you like Barbie. You just asked for a Barbie for your birthday,” I said sweetly, trying to not let my aggravation show.

“Mom, that was two whole months ago. I don’t play with Barbies anymore,” Kimberly said, stomping off.

With hectic schedules, overbooked kids, and worn-out parents, it is hard for us to keep up on toothbrush styles, much less work on shaping our children’s character. But carving out time to spend with our children is a must.

Recent research shows that children who spend time talking to their parents, taking part in family activities and meals, and building family traditions with their parents are less likely to engage in harmful activities. During these times of simply hanging out with their parents, kids tend to open up more easily about sensitive topics and explore issues in greater depth. Those same conversations about school, God, friends, and science projects rarely take place solely in a 10-minute chunk of “quality time” at the end of a long day.

As Dr. Janice Crouse, a respected authority on family issues, explains, “Kids learn our values when they are spoken to respectfully and feel free to ask questions. When we spend time with our children, we can be sensitive to the teachable times in their lives. Even while I watched television with my kids, I would ask them leading questions. ‘Did you see how that man treated his wife? How could he have handled that situation better?’ Those discussions helped my children become more discerning and discriminating in what they watched and the activities they participated in growing up.”

To avoid a repeat of what is now referred to as “The Barbie Incident,” and to keep the lines of communication open between the members of our family, we have come up with eight ways to stay connected with each other. Try them out in your family, or use them to inspire bonding time that’s unique to your family.

1. Take a One-on-One Vacation
My friend, Kim, and her husband, Jim, had long promised their children that when each child turned 16, he or she would go on an extended vacation with one of their parents; their daughter, Sarah, would go with Mom, and their son, Ryan, with Dad. The only requirements were that it had to be in the continental U.S. and that the kids had to help plan the trip.

“Money was tight, and we had to give up a lot in order to afford the vacations,” Kim explains, “but we knew how important it was to spend that time with each of the kids.” Time alone with a parent during the teen years can be just the ticket for a teenager who needs to be reminded that she’ll always have a safe haven as she moves out into the world.

If an extended vacation is impossible, try a long weekend with each of your children, like my friend Lynn. She and her husband, Mark, have taken turns going on a weekend getaway with their boys, Jake and Ben. Lynn got the first opportunity when each of their sons turned 10, and Mark two years later when the boys turned 12. Lynn says the best part about the trips was getting to see the uniqueness of each of her boys. While Ben wanted to get dressed up and go to the area culinary academy with his mom to try new and exotic dishes, Jake was thrilled to pedal across northern California on a guided bike tour with Lynn bringing up the rear.

Finally, if a weekend away won’t work, an overnighter in a local hotel or campground can go a long way toward strengthening the bond between you and your child.

2. Plan a Family Night
Once a week, we have a “Family Fun Night,” with one family member in charge of the planning. They get $15 to feed and entertain the troops. Our family has experienced everything from a bake-at-home pizza and a video rental of The Princess Bride to a home-packed picnic at the duck park followed by an afternoon at the local nickel arcade. Not only does Family Fun Night give us an opportunity to spend some time together, it forces our kids to plan, budget, and take other people’s likes and dislikes into consideration. We also find that giving the children the chance to plan the event helps them enjoy this time a whole lot more.

3. Eat Dinner Together
It sounds so simple, but when our family is balancing work, kids’ band practice, the golden retriever’s vet appointments, and church choir rehearsal, our van passes beneath the Golden Arches more times than I care to admit. Now we make it a priority to sit down and eat a meal together at least five times a week. These range from dinner at a local restaurant to pancakes and bacon on a school morning to a Saturday tailgate before the big game. Not only is this a time to nourish our bodies with food, we nourish our family with good conversation and fun.

When my kids were in junior high, we were seated around the dinner table, discussing what it was like to be a kid when my husband and I were in elementary school. “You didn’t have computers?” our son asked incredulously. “That’s right,” my husband replied, “we didn’t even have a microwave.” Justen thought about that for a moment, “Then how did you cook?” I am sure that he was not commenting on my culinary talents.

4. Have a Date Night
My son, Justen, and I began this tradition when he was 7 years old and we continued into his late teens. About once a month, we choose a night to go out on the town, just the two of us. It may be hamburgers and strawberry shakes at the ’50s style diner in town, picking up mystery novels and hot chocolate at our favorite bookstore, or playing Skee-Ball at the local arcade. Whatever the activity, it gives us a chance to talk without the distraction of the phone, his siblings, or the Cartoon Network.

To create your own date night, ask your child what type of activity he’d enjoy. Maybe you both love Japanese food and want to try out the new sushi restaurant in town. Maybe you’re astronomy fans; take a star walk sponsored by a local planetarium. The object of your evening is to get out of the house and do something you will both enjoy and can talk about in the years to come.

5. Pray Together
It sounds like a given, but it took many years before we got into the routine of praying together as a family. So we made it part of our regular routine. We decided to have everyone write out any prayer requests on an index card and place it in a basket on the breakfast table. Each morning, we divide up the cards, and have each family member pray aloud for the request. We pray for missionaries and math tests, friends who are sick and puppies who are about to be born. No request is too trivial.

My friend, Kimberly, prays with her son, Matthew, each night before he goes to bed. He refuses to put his head on the pillow until all of his friends, grandparents, and stuffed animals have been upheld in prayer. It certainly makes bedtime last a little longer, but this is a special time of closeness for Kimberly and Matthew that is rarely missed.

6. Write a Love Note
In the middle of our cluttered kitchen counter sat a small, lidded basket, better known as the “family mailbox.” Often when I would check our little basket, there will be a sticky note with the words “I love you, Mommy,” written in my daughter’s best 9-year-old cursive with green glitter pen.

Our family mailbox is a great way to encourage each other and brighten our kids’ days. My son is long past the age of wanting notes in his brown paper lunch bag where his friends can see them, but he never minds finding a note or a small treat in the family mailbox.

To start your own family mailbox, all you need is a basket, a pad of paper, and a pen. Start the ball rolling by writing notes to each member of your family. You could start with a note of encouragement, or maybe a Bible verse. End the note with a question, such as, “If you could be invisible for a day, what would you do?” I promise you will get some fascinating mail in your little basket.

7. Break for Coffee
after a long day at school, kids need a chance to unwind before diving into their history and algebra homework. Once they’ve had a chance to pet the dog and put away their backpacks, we would gather around the kitchen table and have our after-school coffee break. We had popcorn and hot chocolate, cookies with a tall glass of frosty milk, or pretzels and lemonade. This is when I’d find out about the day’s happenings at school, how much homework there is for the evening, and, most importantly, how I could pray for my kids while they are at school.

To have your own coffee break, all you need to do is prepare a simple snack and be ready to ask open-ended questions. Instead of “How was your day?” ask, “What did you and Haley talk about at recess this morning?” or “I know you studied really hard for your chemistry test; was it as tough as you thought it would be?” Try to stay focused on your kids during this time. Look at them, listen to their stories no matter how convoluted they get, and make sure you share a little about your day as well.

Some kids just need to decompress after school and don’t feel like replaying their day right away. For other families, it might be nearly dinnertime before everyone is home. The point of the coffee break isn’t to add more stress to your lives, but to give you a regular time to talk through the day. So fit your coffee break in where it works best for you and your children.

8. Start a Parent-Child Journal
When my daughter Kimberly was 8, we started sharing a mother-daughter journal. One night she would lay it on my nightstand for me to write in; the next, I would tuck it under her pillow for her to record her thoughts and dreams. Through the pages of that little book we’ve shared secrets, settled arguments, and discussed life. It’s been a great way to talk about all the fun and not-so-fun issues going on in my little girl’s life. It has also given me the opportunity to share Bible verses, advice, and love notes in a non-threatening way.

It’s easy to get the ball rolling on a parent-child journal. Find a notebook, attach a pen, then write a question to start the conversation. Ask about school, friends, books, or anything else that interests your child. Ask open-ended questions, like “Tell me about the best book you’ve read in fourth grade.” This will help you get more in-depth responses, as well as having even more to write about the next time you share journal entries.

All of these ideas take planning and time, and there have been times that I’ve wondered if it’s worth it. Yet those seem to be the days when my daughter comes running in to tell me about the new elephant joke she heard at school, or asks my advice on how to handle a problem with her best friend. With a chuckle I realize all that effort has created a deep, lasting bond that will keep our family connected for years to come.


Kathi Lipp is the author of 21 Ways to Connect with Your Kids which can be purchased on Amazon. For more great ideas on connecting to your kids, go to

Who Can Comfort Your Child?

Written by Cindy Pertzborn, author of How Do We Get To Heaven?

When your kindergartener feels alone on the playground, where can she turn for comfort?  When your 8-year-old is embarrassed because he’s the slowest runner in gym class, who can give him a sense of peace and perseverance?  It’s natural for moms to desire being the one who can solve their children’s problems, to comfort them when they are sad, and to give them a sense of peace when they are nervous.  Are you capable of being the perfect mom and accomplishing all you desire to do for your children?

Fast forward now to the teen years.  By now, your teen is well aware that regardless how hard she tries, she can’t solve all her own problems and that life is unpredictable.  And there’s no doubt she’s also aware you aren’t the source of all her answers either!

Release yourself of the stress of trying to be the perfect mom and hold fast to the truth that God is in control.

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”  Psalm 73:26

Nothing comforts me more than knowing God loves my children more than I ever could.  As hard as I try, I will never be able to match the protection, guidance, and peace that Christ provides my kids.

My son, Brandon, became extremely sick when he was 8 months old.  After examining him, the pediatrician told me to rush him to the hospital where a surgeon would be prepared for our arrival.  Waiting for an ambulance would waste precious time and I was forced into immediate action.

Panic rose within me as I saw him go limp in his car seat.  Hands clenched to the steering wheel, I sang the song, Jesus Loves Me, aloud but changed the words to “Jesus loves you”.   Unable to hold and comfort Brandon while driving, I sang the song I had been singing to him since he was a newborn.  I was hoping the sound of my voice singing a familiar song would comfort him as he sat alone in the back seat.

Fearing for my baby’s life, I knew Brandon’s only hope was in God.  And in that desperate moment, as I sped to the hospital, I wanted Brandon to feel the peace of God that I was unable to offer.

God answered our prayers that day.  I arrived at the hospital and two hours later, Brandon underwent surgery.  Although Brandon didn’t understand who Jesus was when I was singing to him, he grew to understand and accepted Jesus as his personal Savior in the years to follow.

There will be many times when your child desires comfort and peace.  It’s important to teach her, when she is young, to rely on God for strength because He will never fail.

“Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid of terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.”  Deuteronomy 31:6

So how do you teach your young child about God?  When showing her a beautiful flower, tell her God made it.  When snuggling with your sweet boy and telling him how much you and daddy love him, remind him Jesus loves him too.   Sing songs about Jesus, attend church to learn age appropriate Bible lessons, and talk about God our Father every day.

We want our children to know it’s okay to make mistakes and that everyone else makes mistakes too.  That’s part of life and being human.  But it’s a tremendous comfort to know there is someone who loves us so much and will never make a mistake; it’s a relief to know God is in control and will offer us His peace.

So how old should your children be when you teach them about Jesus’ love and strength?  Start telling them the day they are born!   Even better, enjoy singing Jesus Loves Me while they’re babies … it won’t be long until those precious children beg you to stop singing!

*New International Version 1984 (NIV1984)

Want to win a copy of Cindy’s book? Just “like” us on facebook (see link in sidebar) and leave us a comment! A winner will be announced via facebook.

A New Game of Hide & Seek

snipe hunt gameYour two year old might not be that great at playing hide & seek. My daughter can’t stay hidden long enough for me to find her! It’s so much more fun to play when there are more people so someone can always be on your kid’s “team” to help them out. Well, I found the perfect game to accomplish this! It is called Snipe Hunt and it is a super fun game of Hide & Seek. My daughter LOVES the game (and loves the snipes themselves, which are her “babies”).

This game actually came from the traditional campfire story of the elusive creature of the forest, the Snipe. It is usually nothing more than a campfire prank, but Education Outdoors has transformed the story of the Snipe into a new family board game called Snipe Hunt. I am outdoorsy, but I had never heard of the Snipe story. It doesn’t matter if you are familiar with it or not, though! The game is just plain fun!!

A tradition passed down through the generations, the Snipe Hunt originated as a tall tale told by parents and teens to younger children. Inexperienced campers are told about a bird or animal called the Snipe and the usually preposterous method of catching it, such as running around the woods carrying a bag or making strange noises such as banging rocks together. As children set off in search of the Snipe, their elders take in the antics and try to contain their laughter.

A twist on this fruitless quest, Snipe Hunt is an indoor or outdoor game of hide-and-seek where players try to be the first to find their opponent’s Snipe and return it to its nest. To play, the teams choose an area that will be the Snipe nest and two areas to hide their Snipes.

Each team turns their Snipe on and disappears to find the best hiding place for them. In five minutes the Snipes will begin chirping and their eyes will start flashing red so teams must hurry to get back to the nest before they giveaway the direction their Snipe is hiding. Once both Snipes are hidden, the hunt begins! The first team to return their opponents Snipe to the nest is the winner.

One of the great things about this game, however, is that you don’t have to just play it the way it is intended! So, when it’s just me and my two year old, I hide the Snipes and she has to find them. The noises they make help her find them and keep her interest! If you have more people to play, and older kids too, you can amp up the difficulty and play it the “right” way!

Each game comes with two snipes, (named Biela and Smartin) and a Snipe nest. The packaging tells the story behind the legendary campfire animals. For more information on the game, including rules, visit Snipe Hunt retails for $24.99 and can be purchased at Bass Pro Shops, Cabelas, Books a Million stores and specialty retailers nationwide.


7 Tips for Keeping Students’ Minds Sharp This Summer

7 Tips for Keeping Students’ Minds Sharp This Summer

By Monica Patel, Implementation Strategist, Suntex International Inc.

games for kidsChildren love summer—mostly because it’s a break from school—but that doesn’t mean learning should come to a halt. ‘Summer Slide’ is a phenomenon where skills that have been acquired during the school year start to slip away due to lack of practice. Yet, summer presents some of the best times for practical math lessons. Here are some ideas for keeping students’ minds as active as their bodies this summer:

Transform Routine Activities into Mini Math Lessons. Teach your children the practical side of math by incorporating it into your routine activities, giving it an outside-of-the-classroom appeal. Try giving the kids a budget for grocery shopping, letting them keep track of the cost of items as you add them to the cart. Determine the total amount you’ve spent and how much money you have left over. Depending on their age and ability, you can ask them to multiply your state’s tax percentage and add to the total. Be sure to check their answers with your check-out receipt.

games for kidsUse Math on Your Road Trip. Taking a family road-trip presents dozens of opportunities for children to keep their minds active. At the most basic level, ask your child to count the number of white or black cars they see, or keep track of the number of billboards you pass. Let more advanced children assist with the road-trip budget, calculating how much is spent on gas, food and fun family activities. Try adding all the numbers on other cars’ license plates.  With older children, you can list the operations, such as “add the first two numbers, multiply the result by the next number, and subtract the last number.”

Give Them Instant Feedback. Instant feedback is proven to be a critical part of any math learning experience. When kids sit down to complete a summer math worksheet or go through a stack of flashcards, you have the opportunity to give them instant feedback on what they are doing correctly, and to praise them for successfully completing the task at hand.

Provide Summer Reading. Reading has always been associated with a pleasurable summer activity and even symbolizes relaxation. There are a number of exciting books that correlate with mathematical topics for all ages. If your pre-teen needs to work on area and perimeter, Sir Cumference and the Sword in the Cone: A Math Adventure, would be one among numerous good reads. For younger readers, Even Steven and Odd Todd or How Much is a Million? are great for number sense story-based activities, as are other books that should be listed by your local library under ‘math activities’.  This approach can help to alleviate ‘math phobias’ that prevent children from enjoying a core life skill.

Use Deep Practice Methods. According to Daniel Coyle’s book, The Talent Code, breaking a complex skill—like mathematics—into manageable pieces, and mastering the individual pieces through trial and error, error correction and focused repetition facilitates math processing speed and strength. Enabling children to use deep practice tactics with math-oriented computer programs, lets trial and error and instant feedback push math skills along.

Bring Math to the Pool. If you dread the 15-minute lifeguard break at the community pool, use the time to practice math instead. Fill the sit-around time with math problems to help the time fly. A few ideas for ‘pool problems’:

  • If you and your friend each swam 2 laps in the three pools here, how many laps in all would that equal?
  • Estimate how many kids are waiting for the lifeguard to blow his whistle?
  • If it is 12:02pm now and the lifeguard will let us back into the pool at 12:15pm, how many minutes do we have left?
  • If each lap is 50 yards, how many laps would you need to swim to go 200 yards? How about 500 yards?

Whichever kid answers the most questions right gets to jump back into the pool first or earns a treat. Watch other parents gather around you!

Track Summer Activities. Encourage your child to keep a log of what they do this summer, and at the end of each week, turn the information from the log into a colorful graph or chart displaying how they spent their time. For example, if they complete their chores each morning, they can put a tally mark in the chores box. If they complete a bike ride, a check goes in the ‘road bike’ box. By the end of the summer, their activities can be made into a lesson in tally marks, counting, graphs and charts—and even percentages for more advanced kids. Remember, the human brain is a small organ that will only invest effort and energy into a task where it sees immediate results. Visuals like graphs reinforce the results of their efforts.

The activities suggested above are targeted to 1-5th grade students. Growing up, you may have experienced that learning math was drab and dreary, but with these fun math-centered activities, your child will learn to enjoy math. Math, science and technology-related fields are where the jobs will be in the future for today’s children. So helping to give your children a positive attitude about math is one of the best gifts you can give them this summer.

Check out this fun game your kids can play:

How to play:

There are three levels of difficulty indicated by dots in the corner of the cards—1 Dot cards are easy, 2 Dot cards are medium and 3 Dot cards are tough. The object of the game is to make the number 24 using all four numbers on the card. You can add, subtract, multiply or divide. Each number can only be used once and there is at least one solution to each card. 


One solution for a 1 Dot card with the numbers 1, 2, 3, 4 on it would be:

2          x          4          =          8

3          ÷          1          =          3

3          x          8          =          24

About Monica Patel:
Monica Patel is an Implementation Strategist for Suntex International Inc., makers of the First in Math game series, a tool designed to make math appealing and accessible to children, teachers and parents nationwide. Patel comes from a rich background in Special Education and Applied Behavior Analysis. She is a parent advocate for Autism and devotes much of her time to helping children succeed at mathematics.