Four Tips Before Diving In For The First Swim Lesson

by Nicole Fonovich, co-creator of the “Luca Lashes” app/ebook series

LL has his First Swimming Lesson_Book CoverTaking your child to a swimming pool to learn to swim is a fairly common experience for parents. Getting a child comfortable in the water can give a child confidence to handle a lot of new experiences. Here are a few tips to help make a toddler’s first pool experience a happy one for you and for them!

1. Getting ready!

Many toddlers are not potty-trained, or just learning how to go the toilet. To be on the safe side, until your toddler is completely toilet-trained, use a swimmer diaper underneath the swimsuit, so that you keep the pool as clean as possible. Also, it is important to have a U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device that fits properly. Toddlers should wear these any time they are near water until both they and you are comfortable with their ability to swim.

2. Is there tech support?

Luca Lashes and his First Swimming Lesson is a great eBook/app that can walk a child through their first time in the pool! Children can get the look and feel of the pool, take a shower before getting in the pool, and have a lesson with a swim instructor. Luca and his daddy have fun in the water, and your child can join in!

3. Follow the Rules.

Every public pool has a specific set of rules. These can include “No Running,” “No Splashing,” etc. Be sure to follow these rules yourself, and teach your child how important rules and safety are in the pool area. The pool rules are there for the safety of every one involved, and should be read and paid attention to by every parent!

4. Be Safe.

Parents need to teach their toddlers that never go into the water without an adult, and parents also need to practice “touch supervision.” This means that an adult should be within arm’s reach of a toddler at all times near a pool or any body of water. For particularly early swimmers who are being carried by their parents in water, parents need to stay at a comfortable depth where a firm footing can always be maintained.

Remember to always ask your children both how they feel about the swimming pool both before and after their time in the water. This is a great time to have a “teachable” moment with your little ones! Laugh with your children; enjoy these moments, as some of the happiest times in a person’s life involve being in a pool!


Nicole & Damir Fonovich are co-creators of Luca Lashes,” an eBook and app series that turns “fear of firsts” into fun. The series is aimed at kids ages 0–4 and is available in English, French, Italian, Spanish, and Chinese. The first app, Luca Lashes: The Brown Eyed Boy with the Magic Eyelashes, is free on iTunes, and the other apps can be downloaded for $1.99 at all major marketplaces and at and Damir both have backgrounds in teaching, writing and publishing. Together, they have 17 years of experience in the education field, in both teaching and administration. They live in the Phoenix area.

How To Tell When Your Child Is Ready For Music Lessons

By Leila Viss on behalf of

music-lessonsAlthough not every person is destined to be a concert musician, everyone can be a music maker, enthusiast and supporter. Giving your child the gift of learning music on any instrument is something to treasure, but finding the answers on how to provide this gift is not always easy.

You may be unaware of your youngster’s readiness for making music, but there are some signs that should help you make that assessment. Here are some steps toward unlocking your child’s innate musicality and readiness.


How can I tell when my child is ready?

Encourage Exploration

  • Purchase a keyboard instrument (a portable digital keyboard may do the trick but plan to upgrade when lessons begin) and let your child explore sound before enrolling in lessons.
  • Once this exploration begins, notice how your potential musician gravitates and experiments at the keys.
  • Download some music game apps such as Piano Dust Buster 2.0, The Most Addicting Sheep Game or Magic Piano and invite your child to explore. It won’t take long for a youngster to be drawn into these magical games that also teach music fundamentals.
  • If the keyboard and favorite apps receive regular visitation, this is strong evidence that your future maestro is ready to engage in lessons.

Prime the Potential

Some basic skills are involved in learning any instrument and it’s important that these fundamentals are developed before enrolling in lessons.

An ideal candidate for instrumental lessons can:

  • Say and sing the alphabet
  • Count at least to 20
  • Match pitch and sing songs with ease
  • Identify the left from the right hand
  • Cut with scissors
  • Color and draw with markers, pencils, etc.
  • Dance and move freely to music
  • Clap and march with a steady beat

Consider early music education groups, which are perfect for young learners.

How do I know what instrument is right for my child?

The piano is the easiest instrument to begin exploring and eventually making music. Therefore enrolling your child in piano lessons may be a place to begin his/her music education. Once your budding musician is introduced to other instruments in school around 4th or 5th grade a shift in interest may occur.

How do I choose the right teacher?

Referrals from friends and acquaintances are your best bet for a good teacher. If they are happy with a teacher there’s a good chance that you will be as well. Also, ask to arrange an interview with several teachers and you’ll discover that each owns a unique studio. It’s important for you to determine what your priorities are for your child’s music education. Here are some things to consider:

  • Some teachers may excel at preparing students to compete, while others may lean toward a more relaxed approach with fewer opportunities to compete or perform formally.
  • While some may remain set in a traditional approach with standard repertoire others may emphasize lessons in creativity beyond the page and various styles other than classical.
  • Group lessons are a popular social setting which may best suit those who are still on the fence about studying an instrument. Private lessons usually accommodate schedules more easily and offer one-on-one instruction.
  • Music should be shared so ask if the teacher offers encouragement and opportunities to perform, even casually. Although difficult, performing instills discipline, motivation, confidence and good experience for public speaking.
  • Teachers usually use a method book or series to teach an instrument. A good question to ask during your chat with a teacher is “What methods and tools will you use to help my child progress in his/her music skills?”

How do I balance being a supportive parent without becoming overbearing?

Here are a couple of tips to help you maintain a healthy attitude:

1) Some teachers may require you to be present at lessons to take notes so consider this as a free lesson yourself and learn right along with your child. You will realize that building musical skills is a long-term process with peaks, valleys and plateaus.

2) Regardless if you attend lessons or not, it is important for you to remember that this is your child’s endeavor and not yours. Allow your budding musician to:

  • Learn how to learn
  • Read all assignments
  • Take charge and ask the teacher questions themselves when they forget a concept
  • Be responsible for collecting books prior to the lesson, etc.

3) The best support you can offer your child is providing and modeling structure.

  • Make daily practicing a priority so it becomes a habit by setting up a schedule.
  • Instead of setting the timer and demanding practice, ensure that the teacher’s instructions are understood and completed during practice time by reviewing the assignment with your musician. The amount of daily time at the instrument may vary, as consistent practice will make the assignment easier to play by the end of the week.
  • Arrive promptly for each lesson and be on time for pick-up.
  • Show teachers the respect they deserve by following all studio policies and submitting timely payments.

Music lessons are a worthy investment toward a gift that lasts a lifetime. Happy music making!


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.