Ways to help your student set good boundaries in the new school year

As parents, we want what’s best for our children and want to give them every opportunity to succeed. Unfortunately, this can sometimes take the form of over-parenting and over-functioning for them, blurring the lines between boundaries and responsibilities. While the idea of leaving your child to their own devices can seem scary, it benefits the entire family in the long run. The following are four ways to help your student set boundaries for the new school year!   1.      Set clear expectations Spend time before the school year starts setting clear expectations – as well as establishing the consequences. This gives your child the ability to take more responsibility and accountability for their actions without forcing parents to micromanage every homework assignment and project. An expectation of “Homework will be completed and turned in on time” could have a natural consequence of “If it isn’t, you have to work with your teacher on how to resubmit the work and earn back their trust.” 2.      Help develop goals Goals encourage students to work hard as they grow and progress. Work with your child to set measurable, achievable goals that they can actively work towards each week. Avoid setting goals that are too large or vague such as, “I want to get an A in Language Arts.” Instead, set goals like “I will complete my weekly reading log.” Parents can check in on their progress weekly and help them adjust as necessary. 3.      Lead by example The best way to help your child set boundaries is to set them yourself. If the rule is “no electronics at the table,” make sure parents are following the same rules. Another way to lead by example is by discussing goals for the week at the dinner table; not only does this establish accountability for the whole family, but it keeps students from feeling singled out. 4.      Resist stepping in When our children stumble, it is our natural reaction as parents to want to solve the problem for them. However, it’s important that they learn from their own mistakes, especially in low-stakes environments such as elementary and middle school. While your child may be uncomfortable or upset in the short term, not stepping in teaches them the tools to avoid repeating the same mistake in the future.

As parents, we want what’s best for our children and want to give them every opportunity to succeed. Unfortunately, this can sometimes take the form of over-parenting and over-functioning for them, blurring the lines between boundaries and responsibilities.

While the idea of leaving your child to their own devices can seem scary, it benefits the entire family in the long run. The following are four ways to help your student set boundaries for the new school year!

 

1.      Set clear expectations

Spend time before the school year starts setting clear expectations – as well as establishing the consequences. This gives your child the ability to take more responsibility and accountability for their actions without forcing parents to micromanage every homework assignment and project. An expectation of “Homework will be completed and turned in on time” could have a natural consequence of “If it isn’t, you have to work with your teacher on how to resubmit the work and earn back their trust.”

2.      Help develop goals

Goals encourage students to work hard as they grow and progress. Work with your child to set measurable, achievable goals that they can actively work towards each week. Avoid setting goals that are too large or vague such as, “I want to get an A in Language Arts.” Instead, set goals like “I will complete my weekly reading log.” Parents can check in on their progress weekly and help them adjust as necessary.

3.      Lead by example

The best way to help your child set boundaries is to set them yourself. If the rule is “no electronics at the table,” make sure parents are following the same rules. Another way to lead by example is by discussing goals for the week at the dinner table; not only does this establish accountability for the whole family, but it keeps students from feeling singled out.

4.      Resist stepping in

When our children stumble, it is our natural reaction as parents to want to solve the problem for them. However, it’s important that they learn from their own mistakes, especially in low-stakes environments such as elementary and middle school. While your child may be uncomfortable or upset in the short term, not stepping in teaches them the tools to avoid repeating the same mistake in the future.

Types of music to listen to while studying

While many parents fear it mayl be too distracting, studies have shown that listening to music while studying can help boost concentration and stimulate learning. The following genres of music are recommended for listening while studying; try out different types until you find the one that works best for you! •        -           Classical •                  Classical is the most recommended type of music to study to, and it is known for creating a calm study environment. Listeners to classical music also report increased productivity and better moods! •                  Recommendation: Brandenburg Concerto #3 – Bach •        -           Beats per minute •                  A recent study found that students who listened to classical music with a tempo of 60-70 beats per minute scored an average of 12% higher on math exams. •                  Recommendation: Concertos for Recorder – Telemann & Vivaldi •        -           Instrumental hits •                  Combine the benefits of listening to classical music with today’s hits by listening to instrumental covers of your favorite songs. The instruments provide a relaxing background while the recognizable beats keep you engaged. •                  Recommendation: VSQ Performs the Hits of 2013, Volume 2 – Vitamin String Quartet •        -           Nature sounds •                  If you find even classical music too distracting, try studying with nature sounds in the background. Known for increasing concentration and keeping the subconscious engaged, nature sounds can also be used for meditation or for help falling asleep. •                  Recommendation: Calmsound.com •        -           Modern electronic •                  Modern electronic music is found in many public spaces and places, from grocery stores and malls to doctors offices and elevators. Known for relaxing the mind and allowing it to wander, modern electronic is ideal when working on a project that requires creative problem solving. •                  Recommendation: Music for Airports – Eno •        -           The bottom line •                  When it comes to studying with music, what you listen to is less important than how it helps. Good studying music should help you feel focused, relaxed, and ready to take on the task at hand – without being a distraction.

While many parents fear it mayl be too distracting, studies have shown that listening to music while studying can help boost concentration and stimulate learning. The following genres of music are recommended for listening while studying; try out different types until you find the one that works best for you!

•        -           Classical

•                  Classical is the most recommended type of music to study to, and it is known for creating a calm study environment. Listeners to classical music also report increased productivity and better moods!

•                  Recommendation: Brandenburg Concerto #3 – Bach

•        -           Beats per minute

•                  A recent study found that students who listened to classical music with a tempo of 60-70 beats per minute scored an average of 12% higher on math exams.

•                  Recommendation: Concertos for Recorder – Telemann & Vivaldi

•        -           Instrumental hits

•                  Combine the benefits of listening to classical music with today’s hits by listening to instrumental covers of your favorite songs. The instruments provide a relaxing background while the recognizable beats keep you engaged.

•                  Recommendation: VSQ Performs the Hits of 2013, Volume 2 – Vitamin String Quartet

•        -           Nature sounds

•                  If you find even classical music too distracting, try studying with nature sounds in the background. Known for increasing concentration and keeping the subconscious engaged, nature sounds can also be used for meditation or for help falling asleep.

•                  Recommendation: Calmsound.com

•        -           Modern electronic

•                  Modern electronic music is found in many public spaces and places, from grocery stores and malls to doctors offices and elevators. Known for relaxing the mind and allowing it to wander, modern electronic is ideal when working on a project that requires creative problem solving.

•                  Recommendation: Music for Airports – Eno

•        -           The bottom line

•                  When it comes to studying with music, what you listen to is less important than how it helps. Good studying music should help you feel focused, relaxed, and ready to take on the task at hand – without being a distraction.

Test prep tips for your middle schooler

Whether it’s a weekly math quiz or a yearly standardized test, preparing for a test can be stressful for middle school students. Help them alleviate some of the pressure and feel more comfortable the day of by following these test prep tips!   -        Get ready at home before the test. There are a number of ways families can help their middle schoolers prepare for taking a test at home – that don’t involve studying. First, ensure students are in bed by 10 pm so they can get a good night’s sleep. Likewise, plan on eating a nutritious breakfast. Avoid rushing in the morning by setting out clothes, backpacks, and other school materials the night before. -        Create a study schedule. Help your middle schooler create a study schedule in the days or weeks leading up to a test. Doing this gives them the confidence that they can review all of the material and avoid cramming. It may also help them prevent feeling overwhelmed or overstressed by studying. -        Practice following directions. Many tests, especially state or nation-wide standardized tests, have very specific directions that must be followed. Encourage them to read all directions first when completing homework as practice. For reading practice and following directions outside of classwork, help your child pick and make a recipe with instructions that must be followed exactly. -        Ask questions. A new school year brings new classes, new teachers, and and new test formats. Have your child ask questions to find out as much information as possible about the test beforehand. This includes everything from the specific material that will be covered, to how long the test will be and what kind of format the questions will have. Asking questions about test format can help alleviate student’s anxiety in advance of the big day. -        Review test taking strategies. By middle school, most students learned a number of different test taking strategies. Help your student by reviewing test taking strategies such as educated guessing, looking for clues, eliminating wrong answers, or estimating. Doing this can give students more confidence on test day, especially after a summer away from the classroom.

Whether it’s a weekly math quiz or a yearly standardized test, preparing for a test can be stressful for middle school students. Help them alleviate some of the pressure and feel more comfortable the day of by following these test prep tips!

 

-        Get ready at home before the test. There are a number of ways families can help their middle schoolers prepare for taking a test at home – that don’t involve studying. First, ensure students are in bed by 10 pm so they can get a good night’s sleep. Likewise, plan on eating a nutritious breakfast. Avoid rushing in the morning by setting out clothes, backpacks, and other school materials the night before.

-        Create a study schedule. Help your middle schooler create a study schedule in the days or weeks leading up to a test. Doing this gives them the confidence that they can review all of the material and avoid cramming. It may also help them prevent feeling overwhelmed or overstressed by studying.

-        Practice following directions. Many tests, especially state or nation-wide standardized tests, have very specific directions that must be followed. Encourage them to read all directions first when completing homework as practice. For reading practice and following directions outside of classwork, help your child pick and make a recipe with instructions that must be followed exactly.

-        Ask questions. A new school year brings new classes, new teachers, and and new test formats. Have your child ask questions to find out as much information as possible about the test beforehand. This includes everything from the specific material that will be covered, to how long the test will be and what kind of format the questions will have. Asking questions about test format can help alleviate student’s anxiety in advance of the big day.

-        Review test taking strategies. By middle school, most students learned a number of different test taking strategies. Help your student by reviewing test taking strategies such as educated guessing, looking for clues, eliminating wrong answers, or estimating. Doing this can give students more confidence on test day, especially after a summer away from the classroom.

Books on friendship for young readers

Friendship is one of the most common themes in children’s literature. Through engaging stories and colorful illustrations, young readers can learn how to make new friends, empathize with others, and be kind. The following are just a few of the wonderful books on friendship that your young reader may enjoy! •        -           Should I Share My Ice Cream? – Mo Willems •                  Gerald is excited to eat his ice cream on a hot sunny day, but is unsure if he should share it with his friend or not. Children will delight in following both the story and the illustrations, making this ideal for reading aloud. Grades PreK-1.             •        -           Ladybug Girl and the Best Ever Playdate – Jacky Davis •                  Lulu is looking forward to her playdate with her friend Finny – and playing with Finny’s “most amazing toy in the world”. When the girls break it, however, they have to repair both the toy and hurt feelings. This addition to the Ladybug Girl series of books proves true friendship is better than any toy. Grades PreK-1.               •        -           Do Unto Otters: A Book About Manners – Laurie Keller •                  Mr. Rabbit’s new neighbors are otters – and he isn’t sure how to act around them. Luckily wise Mr. Owl gives him some sage advice: “Do unto otters as you would have otters do unto you”. Bright illustrations highlight concepts such as politeness, honesty, and cooperation. Grades K-2.                 •        -           Enemy Pie – Derek Munson •                  When Jeremy Ross moves in down the street, it seems as if summer is ruined. Luckily, Dad has a recipe for enemy pie – but it includes spending a whole day together. The clever story and humorous illustrations add to the theme about conflict and friendship. Grades K-3.         •        -           Days With Frog And Toad – Arnold Lobel •                  In the five simple chapters of this Frog and Toad anthology, the two friends work together to fly a kite, celebrate a birthday, navigate what happens when one friend wants to spend time alone, and more. Emerging readers will enjoy the easy-to-follow story, illustrations, and the feeling of accomplishment from finishing a chapter book. Grades 1-3.             •        -           Nikki and Deja – Karen English •                  Nikki and Deja are best friends who do everything together. When a new girl comes to their class, they make plans to exclude her – with unexpected results. A warm and easy-to -read chapter book, Nikki and Deja covers the ups and downs of elementary school friendships and cliques with humor and finesse. Grades 1-3.

Friendship is one of the most common themes in children’s literature. Through engaging stories and colorful illustrations, young readers can learn how to make new friends, empathize with others, and be kind. The following are just a few of the wonderful books on friendship that your young reader may enjoy!

•        -           Should I Share My Ice Cream? – Mo Willems

•                  Gerald is excited to eat his ice cream on a hot sunny day, but is unsure if he should share it with his friend or not. Children will delight in following both the story and the illustrations, making this ideal for reading aloud. Grades PreK-1.            

•        -           Ladybug Girl and the Best Ever Playdate – Jacky Davis

•                  Lulu is looking forward to her playdate with her friend Finny – and playing with Finny’s “most amazing toy in the world”. When the girls break it, however, they have to repair both the toy and hurt feelings. This addition to the Ladybug Girl series of books proves true friendship is better than any toy. Grades PreK-1.              

•        -           Do Unto Otters: A Book About Manners – Laurie Keller

•                  Mr. Rabbit’s new neighbors are otters – and he isn’t sure how to act around them. Luckily wise Mr. Owl gives him some sage advice: “Do unto otters as you would have otters do unto you”. Bright illustrations highlight concepts such as politeness, honesty, and cooperation. Grades K-2.                

•        -           Enemy PieDerek Munson

•                  When Jeremy Ross moves in down the street, it seems as if summer is ruined. Luckily, Dad has a recipe for enemy pie – but it includes spending a whole day together. The clever story and humorous illustrations add to the theme about conflict and friendship. Grades K-3.        

•        -           Days With Frog And Toad – Arnold Lobel

•                  In the five simple chapters of this Frog and Toad anthology, the two friends work together to fly a kite, celebrate a birthday, navigate what happens when one friend wants to spend time alone, and more. Emerging readers will enjoy the easy-to-follow story, illustrations, and the feeling of accomplishment from finishing a chapter book. Grades 1-3.            

•        -           Nikki and Deja – Karen English

•                  Nikki and Deja are best friends who do everything together. When a new girl comes to their class, they make plans to exclude her – with unexpected results. A warm and easy-to -read chapter book, Nikki and Deja covers the ups and downs of elementary school friendships and cliques with humor and finesse. Grades 1-3.

Tips to Help Students Adjust to the Back-to-School Hustle

Most students are more than happy to take advantage of the slow pace of summer. From sleeping in and staying up late, to spending days inside on the Internet or gaming, the day-to-day pace of summer vacation is vastly different from the school year. With the start of school just around the corner, it’s important to help students ease back into their routine. Slowly adjusting their schedule can help them prepare for the back to school hustle – and avoid a major shock to their systems on the first day of school. -        Gradually adjust sleep schedules. If your child is used to sleeping in well past 10 during the summer, getting up at 6 am on the first day of school will be a rude awakening. Start adjusting sleep and wake times several weeks in advance to gently transition from a summer to school schedule. -        Reset the schedule at home. In addition to adjusting your child’s sleep schedule, try to mimic the schedule for the school year in the weeks leading up to the first day. Start eating breakfast, snacks, and lunch around the same time as at school.  Likewise, getting up, dressed, and out of the house first thing in the morning before school starts can help minimize morning hang ups. -        Nurture independence. Students are expected to manage their own time and materials in the classroom; nurture independence at home by having your child take on more responsibility before school starts. Older children and teens can help budget or shop for their own school supplie, and plan lunches and meals. Younger children can greatly benefit from skills such as tying shoes or writing their own name. -        Practice the first day in advance. A “dry run” before the actual first day of school can help alleviate anxiety and make the real first day go smoothly; this can be particularly helpful for young children starting kindergarten or any child starting at a new school. Practice the entire morning routine the exact same as it will be on the real first day of school. Wake up, get dressed, eat breakfast, gather supplies, and head out the door. Walking or driving the route they will take to school can also help kids feel more comfortable when the real first day arrives.

Most students are more than happy to take advantage of the slow pace of summer. From sleeping in and staying up late, to spending days inside on the Internet or gaming, the day-to-day pace of summer vacation is vastly different from the school year.

With the start of school just around the corner, it’s important to help students ease back into their routine. Slowly adjusting their schedule can help them prepare for the back to school hustle – and avoid a major shock to their systems on the first day of school.

-        Gradually adjust sleep schedules. If your child is used to sleeping in well past 10 during the summer, getting up at 6 am on the first day of school will be a rude awakening. Start adjusting sleep and wake times several weeks in advance to gently transition from a summer to school schedule.

-        Reset the schedule at home. In addition to adjusting your child’s sleep schedule, try to mimic the schedule for the school year in the weeks leading up to the first day. Start eating breakfast, snacks, and lunch around the same time as at school.  Likewise, getting up, dressed, and out of the house first thing in the morning before school starts can help minimize morning hang ups.

-        Nurture independence. Students are expected to manage their own time and materials in the classroom; nurture independence at home by having your child take on more responsibility before school starts. Older children and teens can help budget or shop for their own school supplie, and plan lunches and meals. Younger children can greatly benefit from skills such as tying shoes or writing their own name.

-        Practice the first day in advance. A “dry run” before the actual first day of school can help alleviate anxiety and make the real first day go smoothly; this can be particularly helpful for young children starting kindergarten or any child starting at a new school. Practice the entire morning routine the exact same as it will be on the real first day of school. Wake up, get dressed, eat breakfast, gather supplies, and head out the door. Walking or driving the route they will take to school can also help kids feel more comfortable when the real first day arrives.

Time Management Tips for High School Students

High school students are often under a tremendous amount of pressure. Between school, extracurriculars, volunteering, jobs, family, friends, and more, it can seem as if there are never enough hours in the day. One of the ways to combat feeling overworked or overwhelmed is by teaching your teen some time management skills. Learning time management can help high school students take control of their time – and create balance in their lives. 1.      Make a to-do list every day. Start every day with a list of things that need to get accomplished. Prioritize tasks by importance, listing the most important tasks first and less important tasks after. Not only does this help students prioritize what they need to do first, but it also gives them a feeling of accomplishment as they visually complete and check off items. 2.      Schedule everything. In addition to using to-do lists, create a detailed daily schedule. Begin by blocking off regular or predictable time, such as school, work, sports practices, or volunteer shifts. Next, add due dates for tests and assignments. Finish by scheduling yourself enough time each to study and complete assigned work. A detailed schedule can keep you on task and on schedule. 3.      Keep work with you. Use spare minutes wisely; while riding the bus or waiting for an appointment, get off Facebook and spend a few minutes reading or studying. While short periods of time might not seem like much on their own, they can add up to significant time savings. 4.      Know your limits. If your to-do lists are getting too long or there are simply too many things for you to accomplish, it may be time to say no to some of your commitments. Knowing your limits can help prevent feeling overwhelmed, as well as allowing you to focus on tasks that are more important. 5.      Don’t procrastinate. The simplest time management technique is also the most effective. Avoiding procrastinating can reduce stress, help school work loads feel more manageable, and give you more time in the long run to spend time relaxing with friends and family. Finding balance between all their commitments can be difficult for teens. Practicing these time management techniques can help them reduce stress, use their time more wisely, and better prepare for their future!

High school students are often under a tremendous amount of pressure. Between school, extracurriculars, volunteering, jobs, family, friends, and more, it can seem as if there are never enough hours in the day.

One of the ways to combat feeling overworked or overwhelmed is by teaching your teen some time management skills. Learning time management can help high school students take control of their time – and create balance in their lives.

1.      Make a to-do list every day. Start every day with a list of things that need to get accomplished. Prioritize tasks by importance, listing the most important tasks first and less important tasks after. Not only does this help students prioritize what they need to do first, but it also gives them a feeling of accomplishment as they visually complete and check off items.

2.      Schedule everything. In addition to using to-do lists, create a detailed daily schedule. Begin by blocking off regular or predictable time, such as school, work, sports practices, or volunteer shifts. Next, add due dates for tests and assignments. Finish by scheduling yourself enough time each to study and complete assigned work. A detailed schedule can keep you on task and on schedule.

3.      Keep work with you. Use spare minutes wisely; while riding the bus or waiting for an appointment, get off Facebook and spend a few minutes reading or studying. While short periods of time might not seem like much on their own, they can add up to significant time savings.

4.      Know your limits. If your to-do lists are getting too long or there are simply too many things for you to accomplish, it may be time to say no to some of your commitments. Knowing your limits can help prevent feeling overwhelmed, as well as allowing you to focus on tasks that are more important.

5.      Don’t procrastinate. The simplest time management technique is also the most effective. Avoiding procrastinating can reduce stress, help school work loads feel more manageable, and give you more time in the long run to spend time relaxing with friends and family.

Finding balance between all their commitments can be difficult for teens. Practicing these time management techniques can help them reduce stress, use their time more wisely, and better prepare for their future!

Games to Help Children Improve Memory and Problem Solving

Most parents would be happy to help their child improve their memory – even if it’s just so they can remember where they left their shoes or put down their coats. Even if your child has moved beyond answering “I forget” to every question you ask them, there are a number of ways for parents to help their child improve both memory and problem solving skills. The following are just a few examples of games that families can use to practice and improve memory and cognition – all without using electronics.

-        Category competition. Have fun as a family playing category competition. Gather enough pencils and papers for every player, as well as a timer. One player at a time picks a category, such as “colors”, “farm animals”, or “green foods”; players have until the timer runs out to list as many items as they can in the category.

-        20 questions. Most of us may remember this classic game from childhood. What few remember, however, is that it is a fun and engaging way to practice both memory and problem solving skills. The first person thinks of an object while the second person can ask no more than 20 yes or no questions to figure out what it is.

-        I’m going on a picnic. Ideal for road trips, this progressive memory game challenges players to remember items in a list. The first player begins by saying, “I’m going on a picnic and I’m taking…” before adding their item, such as bread. The next player would say, “I’m going on a picnic and I’m taking bread and …” before listing their own choice. This continues until a player can no longer remember the list! Make the game even more challenging by choosing items in alphabetical order such as apples, bananas, cherries, etc.

-        Multisensory learning. Make studying spelling words or math facts feel more like play with multisensory learning. Processing information in multiple ways can help move it from working memory to long-term memory. When studying terms for a test, for example, try writing down the definitions, spelling them out loud, or tossing a ball back and forth while reading them.

-        Name game. Assign one person as the clue giver; the clue giver comes up with an object, as well as five clues. The first clue should be abstract or vague with each subsequent clue getting more specific; the player who guesses the object correctly first gets to be the next clue giver. For the answer “banana,” for example, the first clue might be “edible” followed by “fruit,” “inedible peel,” “grown in bunches,” and “yellow.”

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.