Summer reads for your middle schooler

With school out for the summer, many middle schoolers are happy to close their books until September. However, summer is the perfect opportunity for kids of all ages to explore new books and genres they might not get to read during the school year. The following books are the perfect companions for your middle school student this summer. •        -           Smile – Raina Telgemeier This graphic novel is perfect for reluctant readers who may not be enticed by a traditional novel. Smile tells the story of Raina, a 6th grade girl who injures her two front teeth during a fall. Between braces, headgear, friend drama, confusing boys, and even an earthquake, Smile has action, humor, and heart. •        -           The True Meaning of Smekday – Adam Rex An alien race called the Boov have taken over the Earth, renamed it Smekland, and are forcing all humans to move onto preserves. Tip is an 11-year-old girl who has been separated from her mother and is trying to find her. With the help of a bumbling Boov named J. Lo, Tip’s adventures are out of this world. The True Meaning of Smekday was the inspiration behind the animated film Home. Watch the movie after reading the book and discuss the similarities and differences! •        -           Brain Jack – Brian Falkner In the not-so-distant future, neuro-headsets have replaced keyboards. The 14-year-old hacker Sam hacks into a major network, setting off a chain of events that could affect the whole world. •        -           Show Off: How To Do Absolutely Everything. One Step At A Time – Sarah Hines Stephens. Filled with step-by-step illustrations on how to do everything from draw manga to breed butterflies to put an egg in a bottle, Show Off is a sure way to ensure your middle schooler never says “I’m bored” this summer. •        -           Nature Girl – Jane Kelly. Megan is 11 years old andforced to spend her summer in Vermont with no friends, internet, or even cell phone service. Getting lost on the Appalachian Trail, however, teaches Megan lessons in maturity and self-confidence. •        -           I Am Malala – Malala Yousafzai Before becoming the youngest ever recipient of a Nobel Peace Prize, Malala was an average 10-year-old girl living in Pakistan with her parents and family. Her belief that girls should be allowed to learn and go to school made her a target by the Taliban, who shot her at point blank range in 2012. Her story of survival is inspirational for all ages, but especially for middle school students who will be awed by someone their age making a major difference in the world.

With school out for the summer, many middle schoolers are happy to close their books until September. However, summer is the perfect opportunity for kids of all ages to explore new books and genres they might not get to read during the school year. The following books are the perfect companions for your middle school student this summer.

•        -           SmileRaina Telgemeier This graphic novel is perfect for reluctant readers who may not be enticed by a traditional novel. Smile tells the story of Raina, a 6th grade girl who injures her two front teeth during a fall. Between braces, headgear, friend drama, confusing boys, and even an earthquake, Smile has action, humor, and heart.

•        -           The True Meaning of Smekday – Adam Rex An alien race called the Boov have taken over the Earth, renamed it Smekland, and are forcing all humans to move onto preserves. Tip is an 11-year-old girl who has been separated from her mother and is trying to find her. With the help of a bumbling Boov named J. Lo, Tip’s adventures are out of this world. The True Meaning of Smekday was the inspiration behind the animated film Home. Watch the movie after reading the book and discuss the similarities and differences!

•        -           Brain Jack – Brian Falkner In the not-so-distant future, neuro-headsets have replaced keyboards. The 14-year-old hacker Sam hacks into a major network, setting off a chain of events that could affect the whole world.

•        -           Show Off: How To Do Absolutely Everything. One Step At A Time – Sarah Hines Stephens. Filled with step-by-step illustrations on how to do everything from draw manga to breed butterflies to put an egg in a bottle, Show Off is a sure way to ensure your middle schooler never says “I’m bored” this summer.

•        -           Nature Girl – Jane Kelly. Megan is 11 years old andforced to spend her summer in Vermont with no friends, internet, or even cell phone service. Getting lost on the Appalachian Trail, however, teaches Megan lessons in maturity and self-confidence.

•        -           I Am Malala – Malala Yousafzai Before becoming the youngest ever recipient of a Nobel Peace Prize, Malala was an average 10-year-old girl living in Pakistan with her parents and family. Her belief that girls should be allowed to learn and go to school made her a target by the Taliban, who shot her at point blank range in 2012. Her story of survival is inspirational for all ages, but especially for middle school students who will be awed by someone their age making a major difference in the world.

Summer art project ideas

Summer vacation gives time to relax, play, have fun, and be creative without the confines of pressure of the school year. One way to spark your child’s creativity this summer is with a fun summer art project. The following art project ideas can help fill long summer days with artistic fun! -        Stained glass sun catchers Stained glass sun catchers can be easily made using materials you might already have around the house. Begin by cutting out a shape in black construction paper; butterflies, hearts, jellyfish, stars, many more can be turned into sun catcher shapes! Press the outline onto a piece of contact paper and begin filling the shape with small pieces of colored tissue paper. When the shape is filled, put a second piece of contact paper on top, cut around the edges to remove the excess, hang in a sunny window, and enjoy! -        Garden stepping stones Creating unique garden stepping stones is a way to add color and personality to your yard or garden. Begin by finding materials to use as the mosaics. Materials such as shells, small tiles, and colorful marbles can be used to create borders and patterns. Pour a small amount of cement into a clear vinyl pot saucer and begin decorating! When the stepping stones are dry, simply remove from the vinyl trays and add to your garden. For best results, ensure mosaic pieces are pressed firmly down into the cement with as few raised edges as possible. -        Ice Paint When it seems too hot to do anything outside, beat the heat with ice “paintsicles”. Begin by mixing equal parts cornstarch and water, then pour the mixture into the ice cube tray of your choice. Add different colors and combinations of food coloring into each “cube” to create a variety of colors. Finally, put half a popsicle stick into each cube and freeze overnight! The next day, enjoying painting either on paper inside or on concrete or cement outside. -        Recycled firefly bottle This project is made with glow sticks and recycled plastic soda bottles. While green 20 oz. bottles are recommended, any size or color can be used. After rinsing and drying the bottle, twist green or black pipe cleaners around the top, middle, and bottom of the bottle as legs. Cover the top of the legs with a piece of construction paper as the body, and top with cut out construction paper or cardboard wings. Make the firefly’s face by adding beads for eyes and pipe cleaner antennae to the bottle cap. Finally, crack a glow stick, put it inside, and enjoy the glow! Because the glow sticks can be easily replaced, this craft can last all summer long.

Summer vacation gives time to relax, play, have fun, and be creative without the confines of pressure of the school year. One way to spark your child’s creativity this summer is with a fun summer art project. The following art project ideas can help fill long summer days with artistic fun!

-        Stained glass sun catchers

Stained glass sun catchers can be easily made using materials you might already have around the house. Begin by cutting out a shape in black construction paper; butterflies, hearts, jellyfish, stars, many more can be turned into sun catcher shapes! Press the outline onto a piece of contact paper and begin filling the shape with small pieces of colored tissue paper. When the shape is filled, put a second piece of contact paper on top, cut around the edges to remove the excess, hang in a sunny window, and enjoy!

-        Garden stepping stones

Creating unique garden stepping stones is a way to add color and personality to your yard or garden. Begin by finding materials to use as the mosaics. Materials such as shells, small tiles, and colorful marbles can be used to create borders and patterns. Pour a small amount of cement into a clear vinyl pot saucer and begin decorating! When the stepping stones are dry, simply remove from the vinyl trays and add to your garden. For best results, ensure mosaic pieces are pressed firmly down into the cement with as few raised edges as possible.

-        Ice Paint

When it seems too hot to do anything outside, beat the heat with ice “paintsicles”. Begin by mixing equal parts cornstarch and water, then pour the mixture into the ice cube tray of your choice. Add different colors and combinations of food coloring into each “cube” to create a variety of colors. Finally, put half a popsicle stick into each cube and freeze overnight! The next day, enjoying painting either on paper inside or on concrete or cement outside.

-        Recycled firefly bottle

This project is made with glow sticks and recycled plastic soda bottles. While green 20 oz. bottles are recommended, any size or color can be used. After rinsing and drying the bottle, twist green or black pipe cleaners around the top, middle, and bottom of the bottle as legs. Cover the top of the legs with a piece of construction paper as the body, and top with cut out construction paper or cardboard wings. Make the firefly’s face by adding beads for eyes and pipe cleaner antennae to the bottle cap. Finally, crack a glow stick, put it inside, and enjoy the glow! Because the glow sticks can be easily replaced, this craft can last all summer long.

Ideas for creating a summer scrapbook

Scrapbooking is a fun, creative way for kids and adults to capture special memories. This year, keep kids busy while preserving all the fun they had while school was out by creating a summer scrapbook. Summer scrapbooks are a fun and artistic project that can be customized for kids of all ages and interest levels. Not only can they combat summer boredom, but it creates a keepsake that will be treasured for years to come. The following are five ideas for creating a summer scrapbook. -        More than just photos. While pictures are an important part of a scrapbook, they rarely tell the whole story. Instead, include other objects to help bring a story to life. A scrapbook page about a swim meet, for example, could include rubbings of medals, ribbons, swim caps, and more. -        Create a less formal smash book. Creating scrapbooks takes time; if your family is too busy having fun to sit down and take on a major artistic project, consider a “smash book” instead. Smash books are essentially journals with pictures, memorabilia, embellishments, and more. The lack of planning allows smash books to be worked on as summer progresses rather than sifting through photos and memories all at once. -        Include collaborative and individual elements. Work together as a family to choose pictures or layout pages, but also give each person a chance to shine. Have each member of the family write a few sentences of their favorite ice cream flavor and why, for example, for pages about visiting a new ice cream food truck. -        Make smaller, themed scrapbooks. If jamming a whole summer’s worth of memories into one scrapbook seems impossible, focus instead on one theme or event. Whether it is a scrapbook dedicated to a vacation, a road trip, or a memory book highlighting all the trips to the beach or nature hikes you took, a theme can help kids stay focused on specific memories.  -        Think outside the (scrap) book. Summer scrapbooks don’t have to be in a traditional book form. Instead, let kids get creative with how they want to preserve their memories. Ring bound postcards with memories written on the back, treasure chests with admission tickets on the folded pages inside, and memory boxes are all alternatives to traditional scrapbooks that save the memories while helping kids think outside the traditional book!

Scrapbooking is a fun, creative way for kids and adults to capture special memories. This year, keep kids busy while preserving all the fun they had while school was out by creating a summer scrapbook.

Summer scrapbooks are a fun and artistic project that can be customized for kids of all ages and interest levels. Not only can they combat summer boredom, but it creates a keepsake that will be treasured for years to come. The following are five ideas for creating a summer scrapbook.

-        More than just photos. While pictures are an important part of a scrapbook, they rarely tell the whole story. Instead, include other objects to help bring a story to life. A scrapbook page about a swim meet, for example, could include rubbings of medals, ribbons, swim caps, and more.

-        Create a less formal smash book. Creating scrapbooks takes time; if your family is too busy having fun to sit down and take on a major artistic project, consider a “smash book” instead. Smash books are essentially journals with pictures, memorabilia, embellishments, and more. The lack of planning allows smash books to be worked on as summer progresses rather than sifting through photos and memories all at once.

-        Include collaborative and individual elements. Work together as a family to choose pictures or layout pages, but also give each person a chance to shine. Have each member of the family write a few sentences of their favorite ice cream flavor and why, for example, for pages about visiting a new ice cream food truck.

-        Make smaller, themed scrapbooks. If jamming a whole summer’s worth of memories into one scrapbook seems impossible, focus instead on one theme or event. Whether it is a scrapbook dedicated to a vacation, a road trip, or a memory book highlighting all the trips to the beach or nature hikes you took, a theme can help kids stay focused on specific memories. 

-        Think outside the (scrap) book. Summer scrapbooks don’t have to be in a traditional book form. Instead, let kids get creative with how they want to preserve their memories. Ring bound postcards with memories written on the back, treasure chests with admission tickets on the folded pages inside, and memory boxes are all alternatives to traditional scrapbooks that save the memories while helping kids think outside the traditional book!

Games that help improve language and communication

Language and communication skills are important building blocks for young children. Not only do they ensure their ideas and thoughts can be understood by others, but they allow children to build self-confidence as they share and make friends.

While some children are naturally outgoing and communicative, others need practice to develop these skills. The following games will help children develop their language and communication skills through fun, engaging, and interactive play.

1.      Identify the object. Pick an object and take turns offering descriptions and clues to the other person. “It is long and skinny. We use it to sweep the floor” could be clues for a broom. “It’s brown and sweet. Your favorite kind is Hershey’s” could be used to describe chocolate.

2.      Presentation. Just like adults, many children fear being on stage speaking as the center of attention. To get over this fear, have your child create and perform a presentation. It can be as simple as describing a recent happy memory, singing a song, reciting a poem, or more. If your child feels comfortable presenting to your family, find out if they can present to a small group at your local church, senior center, or retirement home.

3.      What’s going on in the picture? This no-cost game can be played virtually anywhere. Ask children to describe in detail what they see in a picture illustration. Focus on details such as the scenery, colors, shapes, people, and more; for older children, have them create stories based solely on what they can see in the picture.

4.      Emotional charades. Emotional charades is a fun and easy game that can be played in large groups or with as few as two people. Make cards with different emotions written on them such as sleepy, happy, excited, sad, or more; players can take turns drawing a card and acting out the correct emotion.

5.      Pretend play. Actively using their imaginations is a great way to help children develop language and communication skills. Pretend play, such as playing house or using a play kitchen, is a great way to learn new words. Likewise, pretend play is an important part of learning how to play and cooperate with peers and classmates.

Writing prompts for high school students

In addition to being an important academic tool, writing is a way for children to express themselves as they sort through complex topics or navigate difficult situations. Journaling can be especially beneficial for high school students; as they critically examine their own thoughts, children will develop a greater sense of self and improve their self-esteem. This may help them become better writers in the process!   Journaling is one way to help your teen keep their writing skills sharp over the summer – without the pressure of word counts, grades, and deadlines. The following are just a few writing prompts for high school students that may help get them writing this summer!   Summer writing prompts   1.     What marks the start of summer: the last day of school, the first day the temperature reaches 90, the calendar, or something else? Is the start of summer determined only by the calendar, or do environmental factors contribute? 2.     What would your ideal summer day be like? 3.     Research activities for a “stay-cation”. Plan a day trip you could take with friends, a long weekend the whole family could enjoy, or even things you could do yourself. 4.     Come up with a different activity to do every day for the rest of summer. 5.     How will things be different from the first day of summer to the last day of summer? 6.     How did things change from the first day to the last day of school this year? 7.     Is it better to be inside or outside during the summer? 8.     What month of summer is best? 9.     Describe one activity that fully encapsulates the summer experience. 10.  Find one activity you can only do during the summer.   Writing prompts to encourage self-expression   1.     Where would you travel to if money were no object? What would you do and see? Who would you want to go with? What would you need to take with you? 2.     If you could see any band perform, who would it be and why? 3.     What has been the hardest thing you’ve ever overcome? How did it change you? 4.     List three of your strengths. How are they beneficial to you? 5.     List three of your weaknesses. What can you do to improve them? Are there any ways your weaknesses help you? 6.     What is your most annoying pet peeve? How does it make you react? 7.     If you could have one superpower, what would you want and why? 8.     Who is your personal hero? 9.     What do you admire about your parents? 10.  What will you do differently when you have children?

In addition to being an important academic tool, writing is a way for children to express themselves as they sort through complex topics or navigate difficult situations. Journaling can be especially beneficial for high school students; as they critically examine their own thoughts, children will develop a greater sense of self and improve their self-esteem. This may help them become better writers in the process!

 

Journaling is one way to help your teen keep their writing skills sharp over the summer – without the pressure of word counts, grades, and deadlines. The following are just a few writing prompts for high school students that may help get them writing this summer!

 

Summer writing prompts

 

1.     What marks the start of summer: the last day of school, the first day the temperature reaches 90, the calendar, or something else? Is the start of summer determined only by the calendar, or do environmental factors contribute?

2.     What would your ideal summer day be like?

3.     Research activities for a “stay-cation”. Plan a day trip you could take with friends, a long weekend the whole family could enjoy, or even things you could do yourself.

4.     Come up with a different activity to do every day for the rest of summer.

5.     How will things be different from the first day of summer to the last day of summer?

6.     How did things change from the first day to the last day of school this year?

7.     Is it better to be inside or outside during the summer?

8.     What month of summer is best?

9.     Describe one activity that fully encapsulates the summer experience.

10.  Find one activity you can only do during the summer.

 

Writing prompts to encourage self-expression

 

1.     Where would you travel to if money were no object? What would you do and see? Who would you want to go with? What would you need to take with you?

2.     If you could see any band perform, who would it be and why?

3.     What has been the hardest thing you’ve ever overcome? How did it change you?

4.     List three of your strengths. How are they beneficial to you?

5.     List three of your weaknesses. What can you do to improve them? Are there any ways your weaknesses help you?

6.     What is your most annoying pet peeve? How does it make you react?

7.     If you could have one superpower, what would you want and why?

8.     Who is your personal hero?

9.     What do you admire about your parents?

10.  What will you do differently when you have children?

Summer reads for your teenage student

While there is plenty of required reading in school, summer is often the best time for teens to read for pleasure. Encourage your child to take advantage of the time off from school by checking out a few – or all! – of these novels. A mix of classics and modern hits, load up their e-reader or tablet with these can’t-miss titles. The classics -        The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood Set in a near future, Atwood’s 1985 dystopian novel about the world of Gilead and handmaid Offred is more relevant than ever. While the book has some adult content that leaves it better suited to older or mature readers, this powerful novel can help start conversation about politics, gender equality, discrimination, and more. Even the ending of the novel is relevant, leading to discussion on the reliability of sources and whether we should believe everything we read or hear.   -        The Catcher In The Rye – J.D. Salinger Holden Caulfield is literature’s original bad boy; his increasing disillusionment with the world and the “phonies” in it still resonates today. This novel strongly resonates with most teens, as the characters struggle to adjust to the uncharted territory between childhood and adulthood. Recommended for teens 13+. -        The Lord of the Flies – William Golding The Lord of the Flies explores the dark sides of human psychology as a group of school boys are stranded on an uninhabited island. At the boys attempt – and disastrously fail – to develop their own society, readers are left wondering whether their actions are the result of their circumstances or are simply human nature. Modern classics -        Stephen ChobskyThe Perks of Being A Wallflower This coming-of-age novel focuses on Charlie, a teenage boy struggling to find his place in the tumultuous world of high school. Often compared as similar to The Catcher In The Rye, Wallflower is recommended for teens 16+ due to references to abuse, sex, and drugs.   -        John GreenLooking For Alaska Protagonist Miles uproots his uneventful life to attend a boarding school in Alabama. Here he meets a colorful cast of characters including his best friend Chip and the enigmatic Alaska. Poignantly written with surprising insight, this novel is recommended for teens 14+. John Green fans will also enjoy his other novels, including The Fault In Our Stars, Paper Towns, and An Abundance of Katherines.   -        It’s Kind Of A Funny Story – Ned Vizini Craig Gilner is an ambitious and driven student at Manhattan’s elite Executive Pre-Professional High School. Instead of standing out, however, he finds himself a suddenly-average student in a group of brilliant classmates. Struggling with depression and anxiety, Craig checks himself into a psychiatric hospital. This novel can help foster discussions about the pressures facing high school students as well as mental health issues. Recommended for teens 14+.

While there is plenty of required reading in school, summer is often the best time for teens to read for pleasure. Encourage your child to take advantage of the time off from school by checking out a few – or all! – of these novels. A mix of classics and modern hits, load up their e-reader or tablet with these can’t-miss titles.

The classics

-        The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood

Set in a near future, Atwood’s 1985 dystopian novel about the world of Gilead and handmaid Offred is more relevant than ever. While the book has some adult content that leaves it better suited to older or mature readers, this powerful novel can help start conversation about politics, gender equality, discrimination, and more. Even the ending of the novel is relevant, leading to discussion on the reliability of sources and whether we should believe everything we read or hear.

 

-        The Catcher In The Rye – J.D. Salinger

Holden Caulfield is literature’s original bad boy; his increasing disillusionment with the world and the “phonies” in it still resonates today. This novel strongly resonates with most teens, as the characters struggle to adjust to the uncharted territory between childhood and adulthood. Recommended for teens 13+.

-        The Lord of the Flies – William Golding

The Lord of the Flies explores the dark sides of human psychology as a group of school boys are stranded on an uninhabited island. At the boys attempt – and disastrously fail – to develop their own society, readers are left wondering whether their actions are the result of their circumstances or are simply human nature.

Modern classics

-        Stephen ChobskyThe Perks of Being A Wallflower

This coming-of-age novel focuses on Charlie, a teenage boy struggling to find his place in the tumultuous world of high school. Often compared as similar to The Catcher In The Rye, Wallflower is recommended for teens 16+ due to references to abuse, sex, and drugs.

 

-        John GreenLooking For Alaska

Protagonist Miles uproots his uneventful life to attend a boarding school in Alabama. Here he meets a colorful cast of characters including his best friend Chip and the enigmatic Alaska. Poignantly written with surprising insight, this novel is recommended for teens 14+. John Green fans will also enjoy his other novels, including The Fault In Our Stars, Paper Towns, and An Abundance of Katherines.

 

-        It’s Kind Of A Funny Story – Ned Vizini

Craig Gilner is an ambitious and driven student at Manhattan’s elite Executive Pre-Professional High School. Instead of standing out, however, he finds himself a suddenly-average student in a group of brilliant classmates. Struggling with depression and anxiety, Craig checks himself into a psychiatric hospital. This novel can help foster discussions about the pressures facing high school students as well as mental health issues. Recommended for teens 14+.

Family-friendly audio books for road trips

“Are we there yet?”If you’re hitting the road this summer, there is nothing worse than a car full of bored family members. Instead of leaving everyone to their own tablets, devices, and headphones, consider listening to audio books instead. Not only are audio books immersive and imagination-stimulating, but they can also encourage even the most reluctant readers to get engaged in a story. The following are a few of our favorite family-friendly audio books, perfect for road trips this summer. -        Harry Potter series - JK Rowling Even children too young to read the novels will enjoy listening to the adventures of Harry, Ron, and Hermione. Expertly read by British actor Jim Dale, the Harry Potter series is a perfect way to introduce brave children as young as six to the series. -        Magic Tree House collection – Mary Pope Osborne With more than 40 of the Magic Tree House titles available as audio books, there are more than enough titles for a summer’s worth of road trips. Adventurous children will love Jack and Annie’s adventures with their Magic Tree House – and parents will love that each book has an educational or historical component. -        Matlida – Roald Dahl The story of an exceptional young girl who learns to fight back against injustice with her own remarkable powers, Matilda is a beloved children’s classic that comes to life on audio book. Fans of Matilda will also like the Roald Dahl Audio Collection, in which the author himself narrates five of his works including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Enormous Crocodile, and The Magic Finger. -        The Incredible Journey – Sheila Burnford An indomitable trio of pets crosses the country to get back to their beloved owners. Suitable for children as young as six, set the stage for The Incredible Journey when driving through the country or woods. -        A Long Way From Chicago – Richard Peck If your family is driving to Grandma’s house this summer, make sure to listen to A Long Way From Chicago. For seven summers starting in 1929, a pair of siblings visit their grandmother in rural Illinois, discovering many adventures along the way.

“Are we there yet?”If you’re hitting the road this summer, there is nothing worse than a car full of bored family members. Instead of leaving everyone to their own tablets, devices, and headphones, consider listening to audio books instead. Not only are audio books immersive and imagination-stimulating, but they can also encourage even the most reluctant readers to get engaged in a story. The following are a few of our favorite family-friendly audio books, perfect for road trips this summer.

-        Harry Potter series - JK Rowling

Even children too young to read the novels will enjoy listening to the adventures of Harry, Ron, and Hermione. Expertly read by British actor Jim Dale, the Harry Potter series is a perfect way to introduce brave children as young as six to the series.

-        Magic Tree House collection – Mary Pope Osborne

With more than 40 of the Magic Tree House titles available as audio books, there are more than enough titles for a summer’s worth of road trips. Adventurous children will love Jack and Annie’s adventures with their Magic Tree House – and parents will love that each book has an educational or historical component.

-        Matlida – Roald Dahl

The story of an exceptional young girl who learns to fight back against injustice with her own remarkable powers, Matilda is a beloved children’s classic that comes to life on audio book. Fans of Matilda will also like the Roald Dahl Audio Collection, in which the author himself narrates five of his works including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Enormous Crocodile, and The Magic Finger.

-        The Incredible Journey – Sheila Burnford

An indomitable trio of pets crosses the country to get back to their beloved owners. Suitable for children as young as six, set the stage for The Incredible Journey when driving through the country or woods.

-        A Long Way From Chicago – Richard Peck

If your family is driving to Grandma’s house this summer, make sure to listen to A Long Way From Chicago. For seven summers starting in 1929, a pair of siblings visit their grandmother in rural Illinois, discovering many adventures along the way.

Activities to keep your child's brain active over the summer

Summer vacation is a chance for your child to relax and take a break from the stresses of the academic year. However, too much “doing nothing” can leave them at a disadvantage when school starts again in the fall. Beat summer brain drain with these fun activities to help keep your child’s brain active this summer. Cook together 1.               While cooking may not seem academically beneficial, it serves several purposes. First, cooking helps children of all ages practice mathematics, measuring, and fractions. Cooking is also an important life skill that everyone needs; whether it is a few simple recipes or a complex family dish, learning how to cook can help your child be independent long after graduation. Lastly, cooking is a great way to spend time together as a family! 2.               Redesign their room 3.               Redesigning a bedroom doesn’t have to cost hundreds of dollars or involve buying all new furnishings. Instead, ask your child to think critically about how they need their bedroom to function. Do they need more space for play, an area for homework, a reading nook, or a computer desk? Next, have them consider which furniture they use the most, use the least, and how they could use their existing furniture or décor in new ways. Drawing plans or creating a collage of their dream room are additional ways to flex their creative muscles. 4.               Take your child to work 5.               If possible, try taking your child to work with you for a day. Not only will they learn more about your career, but they can also begin to better understand the concepts of responsibility and hard work. This can be especially beneficial for young children, many of whom do not yet understand the connection between working and making money. For older children, ask family and friends if your child can shadow them for a day; exposing them to a wide variety of jobs and careers can help them make decisions about classes, electives, and even potential college programs. 6.               Visit the library. 7.               Local libraries often offer a wealth of resources for children and families over the summer. In addition to several lifetime’s worth of books to read, many libraries offer summer reading programs, extension classes, day camps, and more. 8.               Set up a science lab 9.               Summer is a great excuse for fun, messy, outdoor science experiments. Whether you’re playing with homemade bubbles, drawing with homemade chalk, playing in water with a sink or float lab, or even making – and eating! – homemade ice cream, there are a number of ways to make learning seem more like play. This list from Fun-A-Day has several fun options that kids of all ages can enjoy!

Summer vacation is a chance for your child to relax and take a break from the stresses of the academic year. However, too much “doing nothing” can leave them at a disadvantage when school starts again in the fall. Beat summer brain drain with these fun activities to help keep your child’s brain active this summer.

Cook together

1.               While cooking may not seem academically beneficial, it serves several purposes. First, cooking helps children of all ages practice mathematics, measuring, and fractions. Cooking is also an important life skill that everyone needs; whether it is a few simple recipes or a complex family dish, learning how to cook can help your child be independent long after graduation. Lastly, cooking is a great way to spend time together as a family!

2.               Redesign their room

3.               Redesigning a bedroom doesn’t have to cost hundreds of dollars or involve buying all new furnishings. Instead, ask your child to think critically about how they need their bedroom to function. Do they need more space for play, an area for homework, a reading nook, or a computer desk? Next, have them consider which furniture they use the most, use the least, and how they could use their existing furniture or décor in new ways. Drawing plans or creating a collage of their dream room are additional ways to flex their creative muscles.

4.               Take your child to work

5.               If possible, try taking your child to work with you for a day. Not only will they learn more about your career, but they can also begin to better understand the concepts of responsibility and hard work. This can be especially beneficial for young children, many of whom do not yet understand the connection between working and making money. For older children, ask family and friends if your child can shadow them for a day; exposing them to a wide variety of jobs and careers can help them make decisions about classes, electives, and even potential college programs.

6.               Visit the library.

7.               Local libraries often offer a wealth of resources for children and families over the summer. In addition to several lifetime’s worth of books to read, many libraries offer summer reading programs, extension classes, day camps, and more.

8.               Set up a science lab

9.               Summer is a great excuse for fun, messy, outdoor science experiments. Whether you’re playing with homemade bubbles, drawing with homemade chalk, playing in water with a sink or float lab, or even making – and eating! – homemade ice cream, there are a number of ways to make learning seem more like play. This list from Fun-A-Day has several fun options that kids of all ages can enjoy!

Tips to end the school year on a high note

With summer vacation just within reach, even the best students can lose motivation as the school year draws to a close. Instead, stay focused through the chaos to end the year with a bang – rather than a shudder. The following tips can help parents and students end the year on a high note: 1.      Stay on the same schedule. While the last month of school is an extremely chaotic time for most families, it is important to keep a regular schedule as often as possible. Not only will this keep a sense of normalcy in the house, but it also gives children a sense of security in their daily routines. 2.      Reflect on the school year. Sit down with your child and reflect on how their school year went. Ask them questions about what they liked, didn’t like, and would want to change. Doing this helps children recognize their own strengths and weaknesses, as well as identify the learning styles or activities that did and did not help them during the year. 3.      Create a keepsake. With a pile of papers a mile high, it can be hard to know what to keep and what to recycle. Have your child help you sort through their work, selecting a few papers, projects, or tests in each subject they were particularly proud of. Tuck these special projects into a keepsake folder or box to save for the future. You can even record information about their likes, dislikes, hobbies, and interests specific to this school year. 4.      Say thank you to teachers. The end of the school year can be just as tough on teachers as it is on students. Take time to say “thank you” to the teachers, paraprofessionals, administrators, and other school staff who have helped your child this school year. Showing appreciation doesn’t have to take the form of a gift; a sincerely written letter or handmade card often means more to a teacher than any gift card would. 5.      Don’t be afraid to say no. The final few weeks of school can put extra time constraints on families. Between awards banquets, graduation ceremonies, end-of-year parties, and a myriad of other activities, your calendar might seem fuller than at any other time during the year. Don’t be afraid to prioritize activities and say no to those that are less important. Doing so will leave you with more family time – and your sanity – during this often stressful time.

With summer vacation just within reach, even the best students can lose motivation as the school year draws to a close. Instead, stay focused through the chaos to end the year with a bang – rather than a shudder. The following tips can help parents and students end the year on a high note:

1.      Stay on the same schedule. While the last month of school is an extremely chaotic time for most families, it is important to keep a regular schedule as often as possible. Not only will this keep a sense of normalcy in the house, but it also gives children a sense of security in their daily routines.

2.      Reflect on the school year. Sit down with your child and reflect on how their school year went. Ask them questions about what they liked, didn’t like, and would want to change. Doing this helps children recognize their own strengths and weaknesses, as well as identify the learning styles or activities that did and did not help them during the year.

3.      Create a keepsake. With a pile of papers a mile high, it can be hard to know what to keep and what to recycle. Have your child help you sort through their work, selecting a few papers, projects, or tests in each subject they were particularly proud of. Tuck these special projects into a keepsake folder or box to save for the future. You can even record information about their likes, dislikes, hobbies, and interests specific to this school year.

4.      Say thank you to teachers. The end of the school year can be just as tough on teachers as it is on students. Take time to say “thank you” to the teachers, paraprofessionals, administrators, and other school staff who have helped your child this school year. Showing appreciation doesn’t have to take the form of a gift; a sincerely written letter or handmade card often means more to a teacher than any gift card would.

5.      Don’t be afraid to say no. The final few weeks of school can put extra time constraints on families. Between awards banquets, graduation ceremonies, end-of-year parties, and a myriad of other activities, your calendar might seem fuller than at any other time during the year. Don’t be afraid to prioritize activities and say no to those that are less important. Doing so will leave you with more family time – and your sanity – during this often stressful time.

Safety tips for your student on social media sites

Social media has become an integral part of our everyday lives. From Facebook to Twitter, Instagram to Snapchat, kids – and their parents – are spending more time than ever before on social media. More than 60% of teens have at least once social media account, with the majority sharing their lives on more than one account. While social media gives us the ability to connect with friends no matter where they are, it also creates some serious safety concerns for parents. “The digital world is an evolving landscape that parents have to learn to navigate,” says Kathleen Clarke-Pearson, M.D. of the American Academy of Pediatrics.  The following tips can help students safely use social media, sharing with their friends without exposing themselves to the dangers of the digital world. 1.      Don’t post the Big Five. Most of us have fallen prey to oversharing at one point or another. However, there are cases when posting TMI can endanger your safety. Parents should teach kids about the “Big Five,” or the five pieces of information they should never share online. The Big Five are their home address, home or cell phone number, social security number (even the last 4 numbers), birth date with year, and current school or city. All of this information can be used to steal your identity online – as well as provide information to predators about your children’s whereabouts. While sites such as Facebook require information such as birthday, school, or city to create a profile, who can access this information can be adjusted in privacy settings. 2.      Create the right privacy settings. Social media sites allow us to control who has access to our information. Help your child set the appropriate security and privacy settings on their accounts. Doing this helps control who can see their information, and find them online. Limiting who can send friend requests or setting accounts to “friends only” are two ways to protect your child. 3.      Keep an open dialogue. Parents cannot “set it and forget it” when it comes to online safety. Instead, create an open dialogue around social media. Doing this allows your child to feel comfortable coming to you if they become the victim of cyber-bullying or other forms of online harassment. Some parents choose to actively monitor their children’s online profiles and messages; doing this is a personal choice that often depends on the age and maturity of your child as well as their online history and experience.  When it comes to students and social media, there are no easy answers. By teaching children to be safe and make smart decisions about what they post, parents can help ensure their students are protected in the digital world.

Social media has become an integral part of our everyday lives. From Facebook to Twitter, Instagram to Snapchat, kids – and their parents – are spending more time than ever before on social media. More than 60% of teens have at least once social media account, with the majority sharing their lives on more than one account.

While social media gives us the ability to connect with friends no matter where they are, it also creates some serious safety concerns for parents. “The digital world is an evolving landscape that parents have to learn to navigate,” says Kathleen Clarke-Pearson, M.D. of the American Academy of Pediatrics.  The following tips can help students safely use social media, sharing with their friends without exposing themselves to the dangers of the digital world.

1.      Don’t post the Big Five. Most of us have fallen prey to oversharing at one point or another. However, there are cases when posting TMI can endanger your safety. Parents should teach kids about the “Big Five,” or the five pieces of information they should never share online. The Big Five are their home address, home or cell phone number, social security number (even the last 4 numbers), birth date with year, and current school or city. All of this information can be used to steal your identity online – as well as provide information to predators about your children’s whereabouts. While sites such as Facebook require information such as birthday, school, or city to create a profile, who can access this information can be adjusted in privacy settings.

2.      Create the right privacy settings. Social media sites allow us to control who has access to our information. Help your child set the appropriate security and privacy settings on their accounts. Doing this helps control who can see their information, and find them online. Limiting who can send friend requests or setting accounts to “friends only” are two ways to protect your child.

3.      Keep an open dialogue. Parents cannot “set it and forget it” when it comes to online safety. Instead, create an open dialogue around social media. Doing this allows your child to feel comfortable coming to you if they become the victim of cyber-bullying or other forms of online harassment. Some parents choose to actively monitor their children’s online profiles and messages; doing this is a personal choice that often depends on the age and maturity of your child as well as their online history and experience. 

When it comes to students and social media, there are no easy answers. By teaching children to be safe and make smart decisions about what they post, parents can help ensure their students are protected in the digital world.

Educational apps for children

Between phones, tablets, and other devices, children are spending more and more time in front of screens. Instead of endless hours of Minecraft or YouTube, take advantage of screen time with educational games and apps. The following are just a few of our favorite educational apps for children: 1.      Cookie Monster’s Challenge. Designed for children 3 years and older, Cookie Monster’s Challenge helps children develop school-readiness skills such as self-control, focus, and following directions. Nine levels of mini-games keep preschoolers engaged as they collect the pieces of Cookie Monster’s cookie making machine. 2.      GoldieBlox and the Movie Machine. Fans of the GoldieBlox building toys will enjoy this app that encourages and inspires girls to follow STEM career paths. In GoldieBlox and the Movie Machine, girls learn the basics of animation to create their own digital shorts. Recommended for ages 6 and up. 3.      Dexteria Dots 2. Children improve their fine motor skills while practicing math concepts in Dexteria Dots 2. With virtually endless gameplay and levels ranging from beginner to expert, kids of all ages will enjoying playing again and again. 4.      Magic School Bus: Oceans. Fans of Ms. Frizzle will enjoy the interactive storybook style in Magic School Bus: Oceans. This interactive story is teeming with videos, games, photos, and facts about the sea life shown in the book. The app can read aloud to younger students, while independent readers can turn off the narration and read the book themselves. Made for ages 6-8. 5.      Stack the States. Make U.S geography fun and interactive with Stack the States. During game play children learn state shapes, capitals, abbreviations, locations, and more as they stack the states to cross the finish line for each level. Bonus games including matching states and capitals and completing a timed puzzle putting the states in the right place. Recommended for ages 9-11. 6.      Kodable – Coding for Kids. Kodable helps teach elementary students in grades K-5 the basics of coding. The common core aligned lessons include interactive games that help students develop logic and critical thinking skills. Non-coding parents will also appreciate the written teaching curriculum and the guide for “off-screen” activities.

Between phones, tablets, and other devices, children are spending more and more time in front of screens. Instead of endless hours of Minecraft or YouTube, take advantage of screen time with educational games and apps. The following are just a few of our favorite educational apps for children:

1.      Cookie Monster’s Challenge. Designed for children 3 years and older, Cookie Monster’s Challenge helps children develop school-readiness skills such as self-control, focus, and following directions. Nine levels of mini-games keep preschoolers engaged as they collect the pieces of Cookie Monster’s cookie making machine.

2.      GoldieBlox and the Movie Machine. Fans of the GoldieBlox building toys will enjoy this app that encourages and inspires girls to follow STEM career paths. In GoldieBlox and the Movie Machine, girls learn the basics of animation to create their own digital shorts. Recommended for ages 6 and up.

3.      Dexteria Dots 2. Children improve their fine motor skills while practicing math concepts in Dexteria Dots 2. With virtually endless gameplay and levels ranging from beginner to expert, kids of all ages will enjoying playing again and again.

4.      Magic School Bus: Oceans. Fans of Ms. Frizzle will enjoy the interactive storybook style in Magic School Bus: Oceans. This interactive story is teeming with videos, games, photos, and facts about the sea life shown in the book. The app can read aloud to younger students, while independent readers can turn off the narration and read the book themselves. Made for ages 6-8.

5.      Stack the States. Make U.S geography fun and interactive with Stack the States. During game play children learn state shapes, capitals, abbreviations, locations, and more as they stack the states to cross the finish line for each level. Bonus games including matching states and capitals and completing a timed puzzle putting the states in the right place. Recommended for ages 9-11.

6.      Kodable – Coding for Kids. Kodable helps teach elementary students in grades K-5 the basics of coding. The common core aligned lessons include interactive games that help students develop logic and critical thinking skills. Non-coding parents will also appreciate the written teaching curriculum and the guide for “off-screen” activities.

Creative ways to show appreciation to teachers (Teacher Appreciation Week is May 1-5)

Teacher appreciation week is May 1-5, and it gives parents the opportunity to thank their children’s teachers for the hard work and dedication they show all year long. This year, show your thanks and appreciation with these simple and creative ideas.

1.      Send in breakfast. Sending breakfast to school one morning is an easy way to say “thanks.” Kids will love the opportunity to pick out muffins, bagels, or doughnuts for their favorite teachers. To make an even bigger impact, get a group of parents to chip in to buy breakfast for the whole staff!

2.      Collect their favorite things. Create a personalized gift basket for your child’s teacher by curating their favorite things for them! Include a favorite soda or drink, salty snack, sweet treat, or even a gift card to their favorite restaurant.

3.      Restock their classroom supply closet. By the end of the year, many teachers are running low on staples such as crayons, glue, pencils, and even copy paper. For the extra creative parent, create atiered “cake” using layers of supplies; this beautiful and practical gift is sure to wow your child’s teacher!

4.      Take over their duties. Many teachers have recess, lunch room, or before and after school duties in addition to their regular school day. Find out if you can take over a few of their additional duties one day.  Teachers will appreciate the extra time to themselves! Likewise, volunteering time in the classroom is another way to provide greatly appreciated support to most teachers – as well as spend additional time with your child.

5.      Hand write a note. While gift cards and candy jars are always appreciated, handwritten letters and cards stand the test of time. Thank you notes don’t just have to be written by children; take a few minutes to sit down and write a short letter to your child’s teacher, expressing your appreciation at how much your child has learned and grown.

Tips to add diversity to your child's bookshelf

The Cooperative Children’s Book Center has found that fewer than 14% of children’s books have storylines with multicultural characters. Research has shown that children begin to form racial bias in early years.  By adding diversity to their bookshelves, parents can help their children feel more comfortable in the multicultural worldand learn about cultures that may be different than theirs. The following tips can help you add diversity to your child’s bookshelves!   1.   Seek out diverse stories. When looking for new books for your children, seek out books with diverse stories and characters. Look for books that both address diversity (Ten Little Fingers And Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox) as well as books that feature diverse characters (Julie Black Belt by Oliver Chin). The internet can be another resource for finding diverse titles. GoodReads, for example, has a list of over 200 multicultural books for elementary and middle schoolers. 2.   Use books as windows – and mirrors. Books can roughly be divided into two categories: mirrors and windows. Books that are mirrors accurately reflect back a child’s own culture, family, and lifestyle. Window books allow children to catch a glimpse of the lives of unfamiliar people and places. Including books from both categories help indirectly teach children that people from diverse groups are not that different from themselves. 3.    Start a discussion. Reading books that feature diverse characters can lead to discussions about race, gender, culture, and more. If your child asks a question you don’t have an answer to, don’t shy away. Instead, vow to learn more together and revisit it in the future. Likewise, use resources in the community as a way to learn more about the cultures you read about. Look for kid-friendly free and low-cost cultural events that tie in with the books you read. Books are a powerful way to teach our children about the wonderful, rich world we live in. Filling their shelves with books that accurately portray multicultural characters is just one of many ways to help little hearts and minds learn and grow! The Anti-Defamation League has a guide to assessing and choosing children’s books to help parents find and create diverse book collections.

The Cooperative Children’s Book Center has found that fewer than 14% of children’s books have storylines with multicultural characters. Research has shown that children begin to form racial bias in early years.  By adding diversity to their bookshelves, parents can help their children feel more comfortable in the multicultural worldand learn about cultures that may be different than theirs. The following tips can help you add diversity to your child’s bookshelves!

 

1.   Seek out diverse stories. When looking for new books for your children, seek out books with diverse stories and characters. Look for books that both address diversity (Ten Little Fingers And Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox) as well as books that feature diverse characters (Julie Black Belt by Oliver Chin). The internet can be another resource for finding diverse titles. GoodReads, for example, has a list of over 200 multicultural books for elementary and middle schoolers.

2.   Use books as windows – and mirrors. Books can roughly be divided into two categories: mirrors and windows. Books that are mirrors accurately reflect back a child’s own culture, family, and lifestyle. Window books allow children to catch a glimpse of the lives of unfamiliar people and places. Including books from both categories help indirectly teach children that people from diverse groups are not that different from themselves.

3.    Start a discussion. Reading books that feature diverse characters can lead to discussions about race, gender, culture, and more. If your child asks a question you don’t have an answer to, don’t shy away. Instead, vow to learn more together and revisit it in the future. Likewise, use resources in the community as a way to learn more about the cultures you read about. Look for kid-friendly free and low-cost cultural events that tie in with the books you read.

Books are a powerful way to teach our children about the wonderful, rich world we live in. Filling their shelves with books that accurately portray multicultural characters is just one of many ways to help little hearts and minds learn and grow! The Anti-Defamation League has a guide to assessing and choosing children’s books to help parents find and create diverse book collections.

Help your child start a book club

Book clubs aren’t just for adults! Whether your child is a bookworm or a reluctant reader, a book club is a fun, social way to explore reading outside of school. A kid’s book club can help your child develop friendships outside of school, explore their interests, and create a lifelong love of learning. The following tips can help you and your child start a book club in your area.   1.   Schedule the first meeting. Find a meeting location that is convenient to all the children invited. Parks and libraries are good locations, while members can also take turns hosting in their homes. Most book clubs meet once per month, which gives time between meetings for everyone to read the chosen book. 2.   Send out the invitations. Help your child design and send invitations to the book club meeting. Ideally, book clubs should have between five and eight members. The amount of members encourages lively conversation while still giving everyone a chance to speak. While children of all ages can participate, independent readers in second grade and up are often most interested in reading and book discussion. 3.   Provide drinks and snacks. Starting book club with a healthy snack is a great way to break the ice at the beginning of each meeting. Get creative by thinking of snacks that tie in to that month’s book! 4.   Jumpstart the discussion. Parents can help start the discussion by asking guiding questions. Who was your favorite character? Did you like how the book ended? What was your favorite scene? 5.   Plan a second activity. After the discussion, plan an activity or game that goes along with the theme of the book. After reading Diary Of A Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney children can make their own comic strips. If Gloria Whelan’s Homeless Bird was the book of the month, help kids make their own pinecone bird feeders. 6.  Tie in a movie. Movies can still be a part of book club! If the book of the month has an age-appropriate adaptation, consider watching the movie after reading and discussing the novel. After the movie, compare and contrast the similarities and differences between the stories.

Book clubs aren’t just for adults! Whether your child is a bookworm or a reluctant reader, a book club is a fun, social way to explore reading outside of school. A kid’s book club can help your child develop friendships outside of school, explore their interests, and create a lifelong love of learning. The following tips can help you and your child start a book club in your area.

 

1.   Schedule the first meeting. Find a meeting location that is convenient to all the children invited. Parks and libraries are good locations, while members can also take turns hosting in their homes. Most book clubs meet once per month, which gives time between meetings for everyone to read the chosen book.

2.   Send out the invitations. Help your child design and send invitations to the book club meeting. Ideally, book clubs should have between five and eight members. The amount of members encourages lively conversation while still giving everyone a chance to speak. While children of all ages can participate, independent readers in second grade and up are often most interested in reading and book discussion.

3.   Provide drinks and snacks. Starting book club with a healthy snack is a great way to break the ice at the beginning of each meeting. Get creative by thinking of snacks that tie in to that month’s book!

4.   Jumpstart the discussion. Parents can help start the discussion by asking guiding questions. Who was your favorite character? Did you like how the book ended? What was your favorite scene?

5.   Plan a second activity. After the discussion, plan an activity or game that goes along with the theme of the book. After reading Diary Of A Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

children can make their own comic strips. If Gloria Whelan’s Homeless Bird was the book of the month, help kids make their own pinecone bird feeders.

6.  Tie in a movie. Movies can still be a part of book club! If the book of the month has an age-appropriate adaptation, consider watching the movie after reading and discussing the novel. After the movie, compare and contrast the similarities and differences between the stories.

Electronic-free spring break ideas

With spring break just around the corner, many students and their families are most likely looking forward to the much needed break from the stress of the school year. If you’re staying home for spring break, it dooesn’t have to mean a week spent vegging out in front of the TV or iPad. Instead, these electronic-free spring break ideas can keep the whole family engaged and occupied – without relying on technology to have fun.   1.   Start spring gardening Whether it is a few potted herbs or a large flower garden, spring break is the perfect time to start planning your spring and summer gardening projects. Have kids research different seeds and plants, create a plot or plan for the garden, make a list of the supplies they will need, and get started on the digging and planting. A day trip to a local greenhouse or plant nursery can serve as a fun way to do research and get information on the best plants for your home.   2.  Find a project kit Jewelry, soap, art, models, candy, and more—there are virtually unlimited options when it comes to craft and activity kits for children. Find an age appropriate project kit that take between five and ten total hours to complete. An in-depth project can be worked on a little each day and be finished by the end of spring break!   3.  Have a scavenger hunt Rain or shine, indoors or outdoors, a scavenger hunt can get kids up, moving, and having fun! Simply create a list of items to find, divide into teams, and start searching. Out of ideas? Websites like My Kids Adventures [http://www.mykidsadventures.com/scavenger-hunt-ideas/] have premade scavenger hunt ideas for indoors, at the park, in the neighborhood, on a road trip, and more.   4.  Get in the kitchen Most kids love helping in the kitchen, and spring break is the perfect time to let them get creative. Work together to research recipes, plan a special meal, or make a treat that takes more time than the busy school year allows. Give older teens extra responsibility by sending them to the store to shop for the ingredients they will need.   5.  Other ideas There are plenty of other electronic-free ways to spend spring break. Volunteering, having a dance party, going on walks, playing board games, building an indoor fort, and visiting the library are just a few more fun and easy ways to spend your spring break!

With spring break just around the corner, many students and their families are most likely looking forward to the much needed break from the stress of the school year.

If you’re staying home for spring break, it dooesn’t have to mean a week spent vegging out in front of the TV or iPad. Instead, these electronic-free spring break ideas can keep the whole family engaged and occupied – without relying on technology to have fun.

 

1.   Start spring gardening

Whether it is a few potted herbs or a large flower garden, spring break is the perfect time to start planning your spring and summer gardening projects. Have kids research different seeds and plants, create a plot or plan for the garden, make a list of the supplies they will need, and get started on the digging and planting. A day trip to a local greenhouse or plant nursery can serve as a fun way to do research and get information on the best plants for your home.

 

2.  Find a project kit

Jewelry, soap, art, models, candy, and more—there are virtually unlimited options when it comes to craft and activity kits for children. Find an age appropriate project kit that take between five and ten total hours to complete. An in-depth project can be worked on a little each day and be finished by the end of spring break!

 

3.  Have a scavenger hunt

Rain or shine, indoors or outdoors, a scavenger hunt can get kids up, moving, and having fun! Simply create a list of items to find, divide into teams, and start searching. Out of ideas? Websites like My Kids Adventures [http://www.mykidsadventures.com/scavenger-hunt-ideas/] have premade scavenger hunt ideas for indoors, at the park, in the neighborhood, on a road trip, and more.

 

4.  Get in the kitchen

Most kids love helping in the kitchen, and spring break is the perfect time to let them get creative. Work together to research recipes, plan a special meal, or make a treat that takes more time than the busy school year allows. Give older teens extra responsibility by sending them to the store to shop for the ingredients they will need.

 

5.  Other ideas

There are plenty of other electronic-free ways to spend spring break. Volunteering, having a dance party, going on walks, playing board games, building an indoor fort, and visiting the library are just a few more fun and easy ways to spend your spring break!

DIY music crafts for kids

Making music doesn’t have to mean buying an expensive instrument. Instead, kids can get inspired by creating their own musical instruments and activities out of household items. The following are just a few of our favorite musical crafts for kids. 1.  Tin Can Drums Drums are one of the easiest – and most fun – instruments for kids to make. Coffee canisters, formula tins, or old paint cans can all be used to create drums.  Wooden spoons, sticks, and even little hands can be used for drum sticks! For added fun, cover the cans with masking tape and let kids color or paint their own unique designs. 2.   Ghungroo Ankle Bells Learn more about another culture by creating Indian style Ghungroo ankle bells. Ankle bells are an important part of traditional Indian dancing; while known as ghungroo in North India, these ankle bells are also called salangai or chilanka in other parts of the country. Attach small jingle bells to a piece of yard or small strip of felt around the ankles and enjoy! 3.  PVC Pipe Xylophone While this project takes some space, time, and construction skills to create, it will result in a fun musical instrument that can be used for years to come! Begin by calculating the length of your pipe. If you want to create specific notes, the PVC pipe will need to be cut at exact lengths. After being cut, the pipes can be attached to the wood frame using simple plumbing brackets. Finish the xylophone by putting different color tape or paint on each pipe to differentiate between notes! 4.  Egg shakers With plastic eggs still on sale at many stores, now is the perfect time of year to create egg shakers. Rice, dried beans, small candies, cereal, beads, and more can all be used to create different sounds in different eggs. Let kids experiment with different materials and combinations to create unique shakers and sounds, and seal the plastic eggs with glue to prevent them from breaking apart during play. For added fun, put the eggs between two plastic spoons and cover in washi tape to create maracas. 5.  Tissue Box Guitar An empty tissue box, a paper towel tube, and a handful of rubber bands are all that is needed to create this guitar. Cut a hole in the top of the tissue box before inserting the paper towel tube, sealing the joint with tape. Next, add the strings by stretching the rubber bands around the length of the tissue box. Finally, decorate with paint or sticks and enjoy!

Making music doesn’t have to mean buying an expensive instrument. Instead, kids can get inspired by creating their own musical instruments and activities out of household items. The following are just a few of our favorite musical crafts for kids.

1.  Tin Can Drums

Drums are one of the easiest – and most fun – instruments for kids to make. Coffee canisters, formula tins, or old paint cans can all be used to create drums.  Wooden spoons, sticks, and even little hands can be used for drum sticks! For added fun, cover the cans with masking tape and let kids color or paint their own unique designs.

2.   Ghungroo Ankle Bells

Learn more about another culture by creating Indian style Ghungroo ankle bells. Ankle bells are an important part of traditional Indian dancing; while known as ghungroo in North India, these ankle bells are also called salangai or chilanka in other parts of the country. Attach small jingle bells to a piece of yard or small strip of felt around the ankles and enjoy!

3.  PVC Pipe Xylophone

While this project takes some space, time, and construction skills to create, it will result in a fun musical instrument that can be used for years to come! Begin by calculating the length of your pipe. If you want to create specific notes, the PVC pipe will need to be cut at exact lengths. After being cut, the pipes can be attached to the wood frame using simple plumbing brackets. Finish the xylophone by putting different color tape or paint on each pipe to differentiate between notes!

4.  Egg shakers

With plastic eggs still on sale at many stores, now is the perfect time of year to create egg shakers. Rice, dried beans, small candies, cereal, beads, and more can all be used to create different sounds in different eggs. Let kids experiment with different materials and combinations to create unique shakers and sounds, and seal the plastic eggs with glue to prevent them from breaking apart during play. For added fun, put the eggs between two plastic spoons and cover in washi tape to create maracas.

5.  Tissue Box Guitar

An empty tissue box, a paper towel tube, and a handful of rubber bands are all that is needed to create this guitar. Cut a hole in the top of the tissue box before inserting the paper towel tube, sealing the joint with tape. Next, add the strings by stretching the rubber bands around the length of the tissue box. Finally, decorate with paint or sticks and enjoy!

Introduce your child to different book genres

When it comes to reading, even young children can exhibit preferences as to the genres of books they like or dislike. Whether it’s stories about princesses or dinosaurs, fantastical worlds, or real historical events, all parents are happy to see their children reading.   If your child consistently reads books in the same genre, they may benefit from expanding their reading material. They just might be surprised to find they enjoy non-fiction, poetry, biographies, mysteries, or more.   Understanding genres   While young children are most familiar with fiction and its subgenres, they may know more genres than they think such as:   •   Adventures •   Biography •   Classics •   Fairy tale •   Fantasy •   Folk tale •   Historical fiction •   Humor •   Informational •   Mystery •   Nonfiction •   Nursery rhymes •   Personal narrative •   Poetry •   Science fiction   Because many genres overlap, books rarely fall into just one category. By reading books in more than one genre, they can begin to appreciate, understand, and analyze what they read!   Introducing different genres   If your child has a favorite genre of books, they may be hesitant to branch out and read new things. The following tips can help you introduce your child, no matter their age, to different book genres.   1.   Discuss the genres they already know.  Have children think about their favorite books and stories and the genres they fit in to. They might be surprised to find they like more genres than they think! 2.   Learn how books are categorized. Visit your local library to learn about how books are categorized. 3.   Study a new genre each month. Try to check out new books in a specific genre each month. Read and discuss their similarities, differences, and how they compare to other genres. 4.   Chart what you read. Practice math concepts by graphing or charting the number of books in each genre your family reads. 5.  Play genre bingo. Make a bingo board and fill the squares with different genres. With each book your child reads, let them cover or fill the corresponding genre square. When they get bingo, treat them to a new book!

When it comes to reading, even young children can exhibit preferences as to the genres of books they like or dislike. Whether it’s stories about princesses or dinosaurs, fantastical worlds, or real historical events, all parents are happy to see their children reading.

 

If your child consistently reads books in the same genre, they may benefit from expanding their reading material. They just might be surprised to find they enjoy non-fiction, poetry, biographies, mysteries, or more.

 

Understanding genres

 

While young children are most familiar with fiction and its subgenres, they may know more genres than they think such as:

 

•   Adventures

•   Biography

•   Classics

•   Fairy tale

•   Fantasy

•   Folk tale

•   Historical fiction

•   Humor

•   Informational

•   Mystery

•   Nonfiction

•   Nursery rhymes

•   Personal narrative

•   Poetry

•   Science fiction

 

Because many genres overlap, books rarely fall into just one category. By reading books in more than one genre, they can begin to appreciate, understand, and analyze what they read!

 

Introducing different genres

 

If your child has a favorite genre of books, they may be hesitant to branch out and read new things. The following tips can help you introduce your child, no matter their age, to different book genres.

 

1.   Discuss the genres they already know.  Have children think about their favorite books and stories and the genres they fit in to. They might be surprised to find they like more genres than they think!

2.   Learn how books are categorized. Visit your local library to learn about how books are categorized.

3.   Study a new genre each month. Try to check out new books in a specific genre each month. Read and discuss their similarities, differences, and how they compare to other genres.

4.   Chart what you read. Practice math concepts by graphing or charting the number of books in each genre your family reads.

5.  Play genre bingo. Make a bingo board and fill the squares with different genres. With each book your child reads, let them cover or fill the corresponding genre square. When they get bingo, treat them to a new book!

How high schoolers can prepare for a productive summer

With summer vacation just around the corner, most high school students are already looking forward to the long weeks free from homework, tests, projects, reports, and papers. Although it can be tempting to veg out and turn off for the summer, high schoolers should try to use the time to their advantage. Whether it is a part-time job, volunteer experience, or an internship, there are a number of ways high school students can have a productive summer!

 

Deciding how to spend the summer

 

With a few months to go before school ends, now is the perfect time to start thinking about what to do over the summer. Before making plans, students should ask themselves two questions:

 

1.      What are my future goals? Think about long term, big picture goals: do you want to go to college? What will your major be? What future career do you want to have? Once you’ve started answering those questions, consider what steps you can take now to achieve those goals. That might be a part time job to save money for tuition, an internship to gain experience, or volunteering to build your resume.

2.     What do I enjoy doing? While summer vacation may give you time to sign up for plenty of resume boosting activities, you also don’t want to be miserable. Ask yourself what you enjoy doing most and try to find activities that support your interests. If you’re the queen of Instagram, consider taking a photography class to learn more about color and composition. Sports fans might be interested in volunteering as a youth coach.

 

Five great options for summer

 

The following are five great ways that high school students can spend their summers.

 

1.     Part-time job: Having a job gives teenagers the opportunity to earn their own money and add to their resumes. Common jobs that are readily available for high school students include lifeguards, cashiers, tutors, baby sitters, camp counselors, and more. Many companies start hiring in the spring for summer positions, so start looking for available jobs sooner rather than later.

2.     Short-term internship: While the vast majority of internships are unpaid, they are a great way to get real-world experience in your future career field. If you’re interested in being a doctor, see if you can shadow or intern at a local hospital or clinic over the summer. Internships can also be a good way to show colleges you are committed to your area of study – or to discover it might not be for you before you get to campus.

3.    Volunteering: While volunteering may seem similar to internships, they’re often easier to get and offer more flexible schedules. A huge number of groups look for volunteers, especially over the summer. Animal shelters, senior centers, museums, schools, and more are just a few ideas for volunteer opportunities.

4.   Summer Sessions: School over the summer can be an excellent way to help improve your GPA and boost your learning. RBEF offers summer sessions, and you can sign up here: http://rbef.org/summer-sessions-2017/

5.    Summer camp: This traditional – and fun! – way to spend summer vacation has never gone out of style. Whether it is during the day or away from home, there are camps dedicated to sports, academics, the arts, and more.

Books That Are Conversation Starters For Families

Reading a book as a family can often serve as a conversation starter when it comes to tough or hard to address topics. The following children’s books can serve as family conversation starters!

 

•   Moving: Boomer’s Big Day by Constance W. McGeorge

Moving to a new house can be a difficult transition for many children. Told through the eyes of a dog, Boomer of Boomer’s Big Day is not sure what to think when all his favorite toys are packed and the movers show up. However, when he arrives at his new house, he finds all his things are still there – as well as lots of new friends. Other books about moving include Berenstain Bears Moving Day by Stan Berenstain, Who Will Be My Friends? by Syd Hoff, I’m Not Moving Mama! by Nancy White Carlstrom, and A Tiger Called Thomas by Charlotte Zolotow.

 

•   First day of school: The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn

The first day of school can be nerve-wracking for students of all ages – particularly young children in their first few years of school. In The Kissing Hand, Chester Racoon is nervous about starting school, so his mother teaches him the family story of the kissing hand to reassure and comfort him. There are plenty of books for dealing with the first day of school including I Am Absolutely Too Small For School by Lauren Child, A Pirate’s Guide To First Grade by James Preller, First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg, and The Teacher From The Black Lagoon by Mike Thaler.

 

•   Bullying: The Bully Blockers Club by Teresa Bateman

While most schools have become more proactive about identifying and intervening in bullying, the presence of a bully can put a damper on your child’s school year and learning experience. In The Bully Blockers Club, Lotty is excited to go back to school – until Grant Grizzly begins bullying her. When she notices other kids being bullied too, Lotty and her classmates form a group called the Bully Blockers Club. Other books that deal with bullying are Bye Bye Bully by J.S. Jackson, Bystander Power: Now with Anti-Bullying Action by Elizabeth Verdick and LMSW, Phyllis Kaufman Goodstein, Desmond And The Very Mean Word by Desmond Tutu and Douglas Abrams, and Bully 101 by Doretta Groenendyk.

 

•   Differences and diversity: The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi.

When children so desperately want to fit in with their peers, accepting their differences can be difficult. In The Name Jar, an immigrant named Unhei learns to navigate her new school and accept her Korean name. Other books about accepting our differences are Mostly Monsterly by Tammi Sauer, Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts, Each Kindness by Jaqueline Woodson, and Wonder by R. J. Palacio.  

 

Looking for more ways to start conversations as a family? Try games like Table Topics, which provide fun and interesting questions to spark conversations around the dinner table!

Activities to help your child build social skills

Whether your child was born a social butterfly or needs help warming up to new friends, kids can work on their social skills at all ages. “It's important to know the normal developmental skills appropriate for different age groups so you can determine where the help is needed,” says author of Social Rules for Kids, Susan Diamond, M.A.The following games, activities, and ideas can help build your child’s social skills at any age.   1.   Eye contact. Making eye contact is a way we connect with others and show them we are interested in what they have to say. There are a number of exercises families can practice to improve their child’s eye contact. Having staring contests is a great way to engage and play as children practice eye contact; placing silly stickers on foreheads around the house and practicing “staring at the sticker” is another fun and silly way to improve. 2.  Interpreting emotions. Young children in particular can have trouble reading the emotions of others. Help them practice identifying emotions by playing emotional charade. Take turns acting out an emotion while the rest of the family guesses; expand the game by brainstorming situations when you would feel that emotion. For example, “I was surprised because mom surprised me and came to have lunch with me at school!” 3.   Attention span. If your child has trouble staying on topic, practice talking about the same subject for several sentences. One way to practice this skill is by picking a topic and coming up with two related and one unrelated sentence. For example, pick what happened at school as a topic then ask about what they had for lunch, how many kids are in their class, and what their favorite dessert is. Have your child pick out what was and what wasn’t related to the topic, and then let them have a turn. 4.  Common interests. Many children struggle to connect with their peers. To encourage social interactions, plan outings or play dates around activities you know your child will enjoy. Bringing a friend to a favorite museum or inviting classmates over to play a favorite game can help build friendships around common interests. 5.  Planned activities. Kids of all ages can benefit from planned activities to practice social skills. Play dates with a specific activity such as making individual pizzas or creating an art project are great structured activities. Joining sports teams or clubs or organizations can also allow children to bond over a shared experience!

Whether your child was born a social butterfly or needs help warming up to new friends, kids can work on their social skills at all ages. “It's important to know the normal developmental skills appropriate for different age groups so you can determine where the help is needed,” says author of Social Rules for Kids, Susan Diamond, M.A.The following games, activities, and ideas can help build your child’s social skills at any age.

 

1.   Eye contact. Making eye contact is a way we connect with others and show them we are interested in what they have to say. There are a number of exercises families can practice to improve their child’s eye contact. Having staring contests is a great way to engage and play as children practice eye contact; placing silly stickers on foreheads around the house and practicing “staring at the sticker” is another fun and silly way to improve.

2.  Interpreting emotions. Young children in particular can have trouble reading the emotions of others. Help them practice identifying emotions by playing emotional charade. Take turns acting out an emotion while the rest of the family guesses; expand the game by brainstorming situations when you would feel that emotion. For example, “I was surprised because mom surprised me and came to have lunch with me at school!”

3.   Attention span. If your child has trouble staying on topic, practice talking about the same subject for several sentences. One way to practice this skill is by picking a topic and coming up with two related and one unrelated sentence. For example, pick what happened at school as a topic then ask about what they had for lunch, how many kids are in their class, and what their favorite dessert is. Have your child pick out what was and what wasn’t related to the topic, and then let them have a turn.

4.  Common interests. Many children struggle to connect with their peers. To encourage social interactions, plan outings or play dates around activities you know your child will enjoy. Bringing a friend to a favorite museum or inviting classmates over to play a favorite game can help build friendships around common interests.

5.  Planned activities. Kids of all ages can benefit from planned activities to practice social skills. Play dates with a specific activity such as making individual pizzas or creating an art project are great structured activities. Joining sports teams or clubs or organizations can also allow children to bond over a shared experience!