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 hooping.org 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!

How To Cope With Bullying

by Gail Peterson

Too-Many-Rocks-in-your-Pocket-BullyingThe rise of social media and smartphones has made the impact of school bullying more apparent. A 2012 report from the US Department of Health & Human Services stated that 37% of students reported being bullied in school, and 52% report being cyber bullied.

These statistics are alarming to many, especially parents. As mentors and guardians to our children, we are all looking for tools to make our kids more aware of bullying and better able to handle conflicts with their friends and peers.

The negative feelings associated with being bullied lead to fear and anxiety, as well as a build up of stress. When combined the stress associated with bullying with other stressors (tests, homework, competitive sports, etc.), it becomes difficult for some kids to separate out the causes and find reasonable solutions.

After years of working with stressed and overworked clients and seeing my kids struggle, I came up with a new solution to help kids identify stresses in their life called Too Many Rocks in Your Pocket.

There is a pouch of hand-polished rocks painted with different common stress words that kids experience, such as bully, fear, fitting in, grades, etc.. How it works is by following the instructions to take out the appropriate rock from the bag that best fits the emotion or stress they feel at the time and put that rock in your pocket. Carry that rock around in your pocket for the day. In the case of a younger child, when the parent and kid get home, take the rocks out that have been put in the pocket for the day and open a discussion as to what caused that stress. When as parents we know what causes our kids stress or hurt we are much better equipped to help our kids understand helpful and creative ways to deal with it. What we have found is that children often have a hard time defining emotions such as pressure, fear, fitting-in, etc on their own. The rocks can be a tool to open up a discussion and help find a solution.

Tom Krause, a thirty-year classroom teacher and national motivational speaker in education, said of the rocks, “A wonderful resource for teens to deal with stress is Too Many Rocks in Your Pocket. They are a brilliantly simple and effective tool to help teenagers confront and deal with stress on a daily basis.”

In order for us as parents to effectively use tools such as stress rocks, we must first understand where bullying comes from. I believe, it is safe to say that to some degree our children are products of their environment. a child’s behavior is influenced through family life, school life, social and peer interactions. As a starting point we must first evaluate the home life. Of course the vast majority of us don’t think of ourselves as bullies or abusers, but we must be cautious of the interactions we expose our children to. Do you ever speak disparagingly of a co-worker or relative? Make a joke at someone’s expense? These are the subtle, often innocent behaviors that our children can pick up on and use as a justification to bully someone at school. As far as school and social relationships we as parents have a duty to be involved in our child’s life. Make an effort to talk with teachers in regards to not only grades but classroom interactions. Look for signs of aggressive behavior towards others. Know your child’s friends! Who do they hang out with? Are they positive or negative relationships. Simply put, be involved and know what’s going on when your child is away from home.

As adults it can be easy to blow off the seriousness of bullying. We may think back to when we were kids and say, yeah, I was bullied by a classmate, no big deal it made me build character and I got over it! That was then; the reality today is sadly that teen suicides and school shootings are on the rise, in large part to kids who feel bullied, alienated, stressed, and depressed. As I mentioned earlier, with the much wider availability of electronic communications and social sites it is easier than ever for a child to get ganged up on. Rumors spread in the speed of a click or text to a whole class or school. The days of one on one are gone; imagine being bullied by your whole class! Tom Krause, teacher and motivational speaker say, “Society, in general, has made teenage years more stressful today than it was thirty years ago. Increasing drug usage, suicide attempts, and dropout rates attest to the difficulty many children and teens face.”

I urge all parents to realize the seriousness of bullying and the importance of opening up discussions with their kids, parents of their child’s friends, and teachers. I also urge you to familiarize yourself with your state’s anti-bullying laws. 49 of 50 states have such a law, and there are also federal laws to be aware of. Consider using tools such as Too Many Rocks in Your Pocket to help your kids cope with the stresses of modern life and to help facilitate communication with your child. According to Elizabeth Washburn, a Social Worker and Development Disability Professional, “Tools such as “Too Many Rocks” can assist communication and coping skills because it allows them a verbal prompt that shows the emotion that they are attempting to express. In play therapy, psychologists use similar tools in allowing children to express and identify the target of their pain.” Bullying will never go away, but with consistent and comprehensive involvement by parents, teachers, and others professionals we can help our children develop the skills necessary to appropriately deal with bullying.

Training and Exercise for your Brain
Too Many Rocks In Your Pocket (Kids Series) is designed to help children cope with stress and to open up communication with parents on topics relating to stress and bullying.

How it works: Through research we have found that identifying target words help children open up with adults regarding important issues that may otherwise go unchecked. Through their teenage years – and sometimes beyond – many children lack a firm grasp of the concept of stress and how it affects their lives. When adults use the trigger words on our rocks and ask their children what those words mean to them, it becomes easier for children to recall significant conversations and situations in their lives.

Once you have had a discussion with your child, you are better equipped to help them deal with those stresses. This concept works by allowing children to confront their stresses visually and physically instead of suppressing them or not dealing with them appropriately. It is a tool designed as a step towards identifying stress – not as a solution in and of itself. The concept represents a simple, yet effective approach that practically anyone can learn to use.

Teaching Kids About Money

kid moneyHere are 10 some smart things to know when teaching your kids about money.

  1. Start early in life and modify to be age appropriate. Get young children (ages 3-6) involved in the grocery shopping and have them choose which items to buy based on a pre-set amount.  As they get older (ages 7-13), concepts such as comparison shopping, growing your money through saving and investing, and borrowing money become important.

  1. Walk your Talk.  Impulsive buying and racking up credit card debt are behaviors that don’t go unnoticed by your children.  Don’t shy away from explaining to your kids where all that money in a paycheck goes. It’s invaluable for them to learn that just because something looks good, it doesn’t mean you buy it.

  1. Don’t underestimate the allowance.  Once your child starts school, introducing an allowance is a good idea.  Treat their allowance as if it were their own paycheck and set aside 20-30% to savings.   As they get older, you can start to allocate a portion of their allowance to pay for something that they really enjoy. They’ll learn about budgeting, savings and also comparison-shopping to find the best deal.

  1. Give them the power of earning money on their own.  In addition to an allowance, encourage your child to earn money through projects or help them to brainstorm ways to make money. Once they start to earn money through their own hard work and effort, their interest in learning about money management also increases.

  1. Get your kids involved in budgeting.  It’s helpful to include your children in planning for large family expenditures such as vacations and summer camps. How you came up with the budget number is just as important as what it is – especially if it was derived from a monthly savings that you’ve set aside each month.

  1. Encourage them to participate in saving or investing their money.  It’s never too early to open a savings account so they can learn the concept of compound interest. Use allowance and earned money as a way to show how their income can be allocated to different buckets: short term spending (candy at the movie), long term savings (new mountain bike), and investment for their future.

  1. Set financial goals to teach savings and borrowing.   Rather than buying the latest product automatically, show your child how to save for these items. Lend them money at a simple interest rate so they learn the concept of time value of money.

  1. Make it a game.  Every kid, no matter the age, likes the challenge of a game.  Make it a family game night and bring out the Monopoly or Life board games.  There are computer games that teach kids the basics of running a business such as Zoo Tycoon and Sim Coaster.

  1. Start using online financial tools now.  If your child uses a checking or credit card account, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t also track their spending and savings using the latest tools. New services like MoneyStream uses a simple calendar based system to show where money is going and analyzes past spending to predict future inflows and outflows.  If your child is in college you can easily monitor the checking balance and know when to make a transfer (or give them a refresher course on managing their money).

  1. Check out more resources for teaching kids.  There are many resources that provide guidance for teaching kids good money management skills.  Moneyasyougrow.org, Warren Buffet’s SMsCKids.com (Secret Millionaire’s Club) and, Independent Means (www.independentmeans.com) are just a few to check out.

Christy Ross, the Chief Marketing Officer of MoneyStream and a mother of 3 boys, has built a long career in the financial industry. When she’s not balancing the demands of 3 busy boys (ages 6, 10, and 13), she’s helping financial technology start-ups grow. While sometimes missing the mark on walking the talk (don’t we all), she strives to help her kids become good stewards of their money and ultimately their life.

Gardening with Kids

By Christy Wilhelmi, www.gardenerd.com

little-gardenerSpring is when nature appears to come back to life. Flowers push up from the soil, and with it comes the curiosity of children. It’s the perfect opportunity to plant a spring garden. Encourage your little ones to dream big; read together about children’s gardening, and spend time plotting out veggies that will become mid-day snacks this summer. Watch the excitement build as you start seeds, whether indoors or outside. Here are a few quick veggies that provide nearly instant gratification and are kid-friendly crops to plant:

Radishes – the ultimate instant-gratification vegetable.  They sprout in days and can be harvested in a very short time.  Perfect for impatient little ones!

Lettuces – not only will you see sprouts emerge quickly (10 days or so) but you’ll be able to harvest the outside leaves in a little over a month from the time they sprout.  You’ll have salads through spring and into summer.

Beets – okay, kids might not like beets, but they are really easy to grow, have virtually no pests or diseases, and bring a lot of color to the garden.  Their red-veined leaves and stems might actually convince kids that beets are tasty, too.

Arugula – this green is a little more sophisticated in flavor, but much like radishes, it sprouts in days.  Your kids may not like it but you will, so tell them that kids can grow grown-up vegetables to share.

Peas – nature’s snack food rarely makes it in from the garden.  Peas take longer to germinate, but given a place to climb, they will thrive.  Kids will enjoy watching peas reach for the sky, flower and form tiny pea pods.  Practice patience by waiting for the peas to plump up and then pick and eat them right in the garden.  These are the things that make lasting memories.

Christy Wilhelmi is founder of Gardenerd.com and author of Gardening for Geeks. She offers classes, consulting and food garden design in the Los Angeles are, and grows 70% of her family’s produce in under 200 square feet. For more information on growing your own food, visit Gardenerd.com.

How Do You Know When You Are Done Parenting?

5 Categories to Assess Your Child’s Wellbeing

By Erick Lauber, Ph.D.

the-family-unitFor many parents, when their children enter the teen years, things get more confusing. When the kids were younger it was kind of easy, or at least simpler. Keep them safe. Make sure they eat healthy.  Let them know they are loved, etc…

But when the kids are teens, “good parenting” gets harder and harder to define.  Are you supposed to step in and fight their battles for them, or hang back and let them figure it out on their own? Can you prevent heartbreaks or must you only provide counseling afterwards?  And does anyone know exactly what do to about sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll?  When are you done parenting?

If you survey your friends about this question you might get responses like, “when your children are independent,” or “when they can take care of themselves.”  But how shall we define “independent?”  When are our kids grown up? Does it magically happen one day, perhaps, the day they graduate high school or move out?  Those seem like arbitrary dates and not all kids mature at the same rate, right?

If we focus on what really worries parents, that their children will not grow up happy, healthy and wise, we are lead in a different direction. For example, most – if not all – parents have been focused on taking care of their child’s “future self,” not just the present one.  Responsible parents have been denying their children candy in the grocery aisle, getting them up for school every day, and making a thousand other decisions knowing that these choices will be best for their child in the long run.

So, one answer to our question is “when the young adult starts making decisions that are in the best interests of their future selves, not just meeting their current wishes or needs.”

So what does that look like?  How shall we define a “happy, healthy and wise person” and how will we know when our children are headed in the right direction?

Wellbeing

Fortunately, these questions are somewhat answerable. The Gallup organization has been studying life satisfaction and individual happiness for many, many years.  Their concept of the good life is informed by millions of survey responses and top notch social scientists.  Their results support our intuitive notion that we all want basically the same things.  Gallup has combined these few universals into a concept called “wellbeing.”  When we are doing well in each of these categories, we give ourselves very high scores on wellbeing.

For our purposes, these five categories allow us to break down the question “is our child headed in the right direction?” into five more specific questions.  Our child will do well in life and have high wellbeing down the road if they are taking care of themselves in the areas of career, social, physical, financial and community wellbeing.

  1. Career

The Gallup organization has discovered that the single most important element of one’s wellbeing is a person’s self-evaluation of their career wellbeing.  This question is not about how much money you make, but instead about how much you enjoy what you do on a daily basis. Part of our job as parents is to help our children select and get in to a career they will enjoy.  This doesn’t mean we have to find the right job for them, or even select their college major. It means we have to help our children understand enjoying your work is very, very important.  As they understand themselves better and better, they have to be responsible for making their careers, and thus their lives, enjoyable.

  1. Social

Similarly, we cannot make relationship decisions for our children, but we can pull back on parenting when we can see they are taking care of themselves and their future selves in this arena.  Are they forming strong bonds with people at work or school? Does it look like these relationships will last for years?  Are they able to navigate brief disruptions in those relationships?  Are they forward-looking in their choice of a spouse?

  1. Physical

We as parents have been taking care of our children’s physical health for quite some time. How are they doing in that department? Are they doing the day to day things that will lead to a long term healthy life style? Are they avoiding major risk factors that could create catastrophic results for their health and wellbeing? We might disagree as parents in the specifics, but if we step back and assess the overall pattern, is our child on their way to being a healthy, productive adult?

  1. Financial

Can our child manage money?  Many parents will “test drive” their teenagers’ financial decisions by either giving them their own money, maybe as an allowance, or encouraging them to get a part-time job.  Though we won’t agree with every buying decision, we want to know is our child learning about the importance of money, and whether or not they can save for big things instead of spending it all right now.

  1. Community

Finally, the Gallup organization has found a significant correlation in an individual’s self-reported wellbeing  and  their involvement in their community. Volunteering is a significant contributor to our happiness and can inoculate us from stress and other negative emotions.  Does our child show any tendency toward this kind of sacrifice and involvement? Do they belong to clubs or service organizations? Do they understand the importance of volunteering?

To answer the question “when are we done parenting?” we must have a goal in mind. Wellbeing is at least one way of answering and describing what we want our children to achieve throughout their lives. As we begin to think about when our jobs as parents might be winding down, we can use the five categories of the Gallup organization’s wellbeing index as a way to ask more specific questions about whether our child is not just taking care of their present needs and wants, but also their future selves.  Though all of us know our roles are parents will never really be over, it is completely acceptable to say the job can evolve.  The kind of parent we want to be is someone who can celebrate, from the sidelines, our child’s happiness and wellbeing.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Erick Lauber, Ph.D. is an applied psychologist and faculty at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He speaks and consults on personal growth and development, life balance and change. He has won 19 educational TV/film awards and is published in numerous journals and psychology conferences. For more information, please visit www.ErickLauber.com or call 724-464-7460.

Step Dogs

Step Dogs is a cute movie for animal loving kids. It is full of slapstick humor that children find hilarious and the story is very easy to follow. It is safe for kids and even the “violence” with the thieves is silly and ok for kids. It totally reminds me of a pet version of “Home Alone” with the adorable talking dogs saving the day. The teen actors do a nice job and are enjoyable to watch, but for our family the dogs were the stars!
stepdogsStep Dogs

Available on DVD on December 3, 2013 by Image Entertainment

Synopsis: Meatball is a carefree, wisecracking country dog. Cassie is Hollywood’s most pampered pet They couldn’t be more different, and when their owners marry and move the entire blended family to the rural north, the claws come out It’s only when two bumbling thieves scheme to break into their house, that these four-legged foes must team up to defend their home. This riotously funny and heartwarming comedy proves that it takes all breeds to make a family.

http://www.us.rljentertainment.com/product/step-dogs/2b51ff71-f11d-e211-baaf-020045490004

New Christmas Movies: The Naughty List & Journey To The Christmas Star

It’s time for Christmas movies! My favorite! I got to check out two very cute movies for the family. They are both safe, with good humor and no foul language.

The animated, The Naughty List is fun and something even the little ones will love. My three year old has watched it more than 10 times already. It has a story that is easy to follow, adorable characters and a sweet message about putting others before yourself. This is an excellent addition to your Christmas movie stash.

The non-animated Journey To The Christmas Star is a great movie for slightly older children (around 7+). It has the classic elements of a good fairy tale-a princess, king, witch, talking bear, a gnome and, of course Father Christmas (Santa). It has a story line that is simple for children. It is a Norwegian story, dubbed in English, brought here from The Walt Disney Company Nordic.
naughty listThe Naughty List

Available on DVD and VOD on November 12, 2013 by ARC Entertainment

Cast:  Matthew Lillard (Scooby-Doo), Drake Bell (Drake & Josh), Sean Astin (Lord of the Rings Trilogy), Kyle Chandler, Naya Rivera (Glee)
Synopsis:  Two young elves, WINTER and SNOWFLAKE (It’s a boy elf name!!!) have a hard time following the rules and are prone to sneaking off for some good elf playtime. But after wrecking the North Pole’s official Christmas tree, the two elf brothers along with a rebellious reindeer named SPARKLE find themselves on the dreaded Naughty List.  They are forced to do mundane horrible tasks like washing windows, cleaning bathrooms and more but seem to always make a bigger mess than they had to begin with. After the group is regulated to kitchen duty, they somehow manage to give the whole North Pole food poisoning including Santa!  Now with only hours to go before Christmas, they are the only ones left to help save Christmas.

 

Journey to the Christmas Star Cover Art Journey To The Christmas Star

Available on DVD on November 5, 2013 by Vertical Entertainment

Cast:  Agnes Kittelsen, Jakob Oftebro
 
Synopsis: A courageous girl sets out on a hazardous journey to find the Christmas Star in order to free the kingdom from a curse and bring back a long lost princess, but some mighty foes try to stop her.  A Christmas adventure for the whole family set in a magnificent winter

Children’s Book about Misbehaved Mutt Teaches Key Values

By children’s author Lana Schneider
http://sheasheasheananigans.weebly.com/about-the-author.html

 

sheasheaHow many times have we seen or been the parent of a child who has suddenly ‘run off’ from a playground or grocery store isle? As our hearts pound with panic and our faces turn pale we find them, hugging them and reprimanding them at the same time.

 

In the children’s picture book series, “Shea-Shea Shea-na-ni-gans”, Shea-Shea is a rambunctious German Shepard mix whose mission is to create as much mischief as possible. In the first book of the series, “Shea Runs Away”, the dog demonstrates her unrelenting urge to leave the safety of her own yard and explore the neighborhood. She hops a fence and wanders the streets alone.

 

In her time away from the safety of her loved ones, Shea-Shea meets a sweet old woman, a butcher, and a firefighter. She even finds time to take an afternoon nap in the local park. However, her curious ways put her in the ‘doghouse’ when her owner catches up with her.

 

Parents can use Shea-Shea’s examples to teach their children the dangers of running off with no supervision. As parents, we don’t want to use scare tactics with small children, however, we do want key safety points to be embedded in their minds. Reading a short picture book with fun, entertaining illustrations, with realistic outcomes is the perfect way to get the point across to your little ones.

 

All the books the Shea series are meant to teach important lessons or highlight milestones in child’s life. This was my thought process behind the second book, “Shea Goes to the Doctor”. We all remember that childhood milestone for ourselves don’t we?

 

Not every kid is brave enough to undergo such a taunting first time experience. Shea-Shea goes through all the basic motions of a checkup and even gets shots! It’s my goal that after you reading the book with your child that they can walk into that doctor’s office with confidence.

 

Later, in the Shea-Shea Sheananigans series there will be subtitles such as “Shea Goes to Preschool”, and “Shea Get’s a New Puppy”, however, no matter what the content of the lesson, you can count on Shea-Shea to represent the situation well and get your child through that daunting childhood milestone.

 

I realize that childhood is an important time for teaching and the development of young minds. I hope that my work can assist parents in the upbringing of wonderful children.

Digital Media Tips

By Sherry Maysonave, Author, EggMania: Where’s the Egg In Exactly, www.maniatales.com

kid-laptopDigital devices are kid magnets. Fascinated by smart phones, iPads, tablets, and gaming devices, today’s tech-savvy kids can easily get overloaded by digital media.  One of the pitfalls of too much technology is the loss of imagination time which is key to keeping the genius factor alive and well in kids. Recent MRI studies show that the use of imagination activates multiple areas of the brain with increased blood flow, which is associated with neuronal activity. Interestingly, it was found that narratives were a primary imagination trigger, and this included stories in eBook format as well as traditional books and even oral story-telling.

 

Parents can employ the advantages of imaginative journeys by using “interactive” eBooks to satisfy their kids’ digital cravings.  Narrated and enhanced eBooks typically incorporate the three primary learning modalities—visual, audio, and kinesthetic—simultaneously. Multi-sensory and multi-dimensional experiences are like brain vitamins, by significantly increasing imaginative components and learning potential.

 

How can parents optimize and ensure that their children’s screen time, even with eBooks, is a beneficial experience?

 

Tips for using interactive ebooks to engage your kids:

1. Multi-Sensory Components — Visual, Audio, and Kinesthetic

Visual: To fully engage children visually and to stimulate their imaginations, select illustrated ebooks that are visually-rich, those having artful and colorful graphics beyond typical kiddy art.

Audio: Sound enhanced ebooks that have two modes of reading are best: a) Narration with music and sound effects; b) Read Myself. To optimize audio integration, allow children to enjoy and explore the narrated version with enhanced sound. Then, to practice oral reading skills, set up auditions for “the best narrator.” Use recorders or smart phones to tape children’s versions. Allow kids to create fun sound effects and add music to their narrations. For younger children who are not yet reading advanced vocabulary, parents may record for them. Involve them though in the nuances of your oral expression. Include their voices on the recording by having them read, speak, or repeat after you, some of the words or short sentences.

Kinesthetic: Encourage tapping and touching of the screen to activate kinesthetic and interactive components. Ask them to zoom in and out on art images, tap for duplication or animation of images, and tap words for definitions. iPad users can take screen shots of illustrations, then print them in black and white for kids to color, paint, trace, or copy. Hands-on activities such as these extend the digital world into their real world and offer more opportunities for kinesthetic application.

2. Emotional Elements

A. Discuss stories and illustrations with children; ask questions, “What is their favorite illustration? And why?”… Their favorite words, fun facts, etc. Avoid asking, “What did you learn?” Host a live chat or set-up mock television interview to make this more fun for kids and show you value their opinion. Allow them to express without making any answers wrong. This is an opportunity to learn more about what your children are thinking.

B. Support the hero in your child. Develop their subjective thinking skills by helping them analyze the subtler life lessons typically inherent in children’s narratives. Kids do not always integrate what we think they will. Help them come to positive conclusions by asking them questions about the main character or characters, asking what they liked about them/him/her and didn’t like about them. Ask how they would respond to the dilemma or conflict if they were that character. Set up a stage effect for kids to act out these components or the entire story. Family participation encouraged.

3. Language Development

Give kids a choice of two illustrations from an ebook or have them select two favorites. Then have them write a new story, poem, or song lyrics based upon the illustrations and what the images inspire in their imagination. Older kids can be required to have a lexical humor slant to their story, poem, or song. They may also want to choose a genre such as comedy, drama, true crime, romance, memoir, etc.

4. Family Fun

Extend the subject matter into family time to further develop and enhance kids’ imaginations. Play games, such as charades, using vocabulary-rich phrases and words from ebook narratives. A family/friends version of “Who’s Smarter than a Fifth Grader” can be played using the Fun Facts that some ebooks provide.

A Different Kind of Gift!

As the holiday season is approaching, many of you are probably starting to think of gift ideas for the people on your list. If you are anything like me, you always want to come up with something different than everyone else will think of and really be enjoyable for your gift recipient. I came across an idea that I think is really awesome-a fun gift and you don’t even have to go to the store to buy it! I checked out both of these and loved everything about them. A nice, sturdy box filled with quality items that were well thought out. Whether buying for a fellow parent or a special child, this is a great way to go!

For a parent:

googaro Googaro

Googaro is a subscription box service that delivers the highest-quality, full-size products for children 0-3 years of age. For $35 a month, Googaro helps new parents find the most beneficial products for their baby that are organic, BPA-free and eco-friendly, and is the perfect gift idea to make a mom and dad’s job just a little bit easier.

Every month, subscribers will receive a care package with 4-5 full-size products that are the perfect blend of practical, safe, stylish and fun. Each box is carefully curated with new and exciting high-end toys, books, snacks and household products that are tailored to a child’s age and gender, with the occasional surprise thrown in for mom and dad.

Three, six and twelve-month subscriptions are available at googaro.com for newborns to toddlers age 3. A three-month subscription retails for $35/month, a six-month subscription retails for $32/month (with ½ month free), and a 12-month subscription retails for $32/month (with one month free). Check it out at www.googaro.com.

For a child:

thehappytrunkThe Happy Trunk

Creativity in a box! The Happy Trunk is overflowing with surprises including arts & crafts, science experiments and creative play items. You have two trunks to choose from: one for 3-7 year olds and one for 8-11 year olds. Each box comes with all the materials and instructions! The best part – you don’t have to go anywhere to pick it up. Imagine the excitement on your child’s face when they receive their own mail! You can purchase The Happy Trunk as a one-time gift or sign up for a monthly subscription. Prices are 20 dollars/month. Peek inside The Happy Trunk at: www.thehappytrunk.com.