Tag Archives: parenting


About Technology

PCA link to this article was posted on my Facebook wall, and it’s too thoughtful an article about technology and our kids not to pass along. As the author Scott Steinberg makes very clear more than once, technology isn’t going to go away so we parents better figure out how to teach our kids to use it properly and safely.

I thought one of the best ideas to come out in this article is maintaining a balance between real and virtual activities. Technology, or ‘screen time’ isn’t an inalienable right, it’s a privilege. Access to technology is something our kids need to be given to exist and compete in the modern world, but at least the young ones don’t necessarily understand that fact; we parents can ration that access. If one to two hours is the maximum screen time kids should have, it should be balanced with an equal amount of time outside, playing games, doing chores, some form of ‘real world’ activity.

Another great point is that using technology as the ‘occasional’ babysitter isn’t something we parents should be drowning in guilt about– the key here being occasional. There’s loads of educational material online for kids and that’s good for kids, and if it buys you 15 minutes to keep your sanity, go for it!

I strongly encourage all parents to take the time to read this thoughtful and thought provoking article as a first step in establishing a realistic and healthy technology game plan for your house and your kids. If, in fact, 92% of US toddlers really do have an online presence by the age of two (as per one survey), we parents better figure out how to insure it’s all a positive impact on our kids and not a negative one. Clearly, today’s post is not birthday party related, but it is an important concept for parents that I wanted to pass along.


Allergy Friendly Treats

CupcakeBanning sugary treats from the school for birthday’s shouldn’t be confused with being responsible about possible allergic reactions, usually caused by nuts. I recommend for your reading as a helpful kids tip on an important parenting subject the heated discussion and response over at the Huffington Post.

Yes, it’s sad that the tradition of birthday treats is being thrown out at our schools where a little celebration of their special day means a whole lot to our children. Yes, the sugar in those cupcakes does in some small way contribute to the obesity epidemic we face here in America, which has now trickled down to include our kids. I would, however, argue that the contribution from a few birthday treats on someone’s special day is meaningless in the scheme of things. Not because I’m the birthday party games lady, but because traditions and birthday’s are both important, attack all the other, every day and constant causes of the epidemic and leave the special occasions alone. My opinion.

BUT- we parents really do need to be aware and careful about ingredients that might hurt the allergic child. I know I don’t have an allergic child, and they had no friends who were allergic, so I never gave it much thought. My bad.

But in the classroom setting where you don’t know everyone or their medical histories, it’s critical that we parents assume responsibility and send in NOTHING with nuts. Gluten free is a newer issue we parents need to deal with, but we can ask teachers if it’s an issue. If so, search for a gluten free recipe or send in a gluten free alternative for the sensitive child. Here you go.

Sadly, allergies seem to have become much more common, so we parents all need to adjust our thinking when it comes to those birthday treats we send in to school- in those communities where they still permit it.


Remarkable Book Teaching PreSchoolers About Bullying

OneThis week’s parenting tip is a marvelous book for preschoolers that helps teach numbers, colors and, at the same time (believe it or not), about bullying. It has solid 5 star reviews on Amazon from parents and teachers alike. [NOTE: Any purchases made through the link on this page and Amazon pays me a commission, and that seems fair to me!]

This week January 23 – 27 has been designated “No Name Calling Week” in schools across the country, so this is the perfect time to bring up this nasty subject. A subject that’s gotten a lot of attention of late with recent young suicide victims so sadly spurring the conversation.

While it’s great that the nations schools are stepping up to the discussion, the first line of defense lies with us parents. And as Signe Whitson, author, child and adolescent therapist points out in the 1/20/12 Huffington Post, there are books about bullying out there to help us get the message through to our kids. Ms. Whitson has several recommendations for books targeting middle schoolers and tweens, which is of course the age when bullying often becomes a serious problem. But like most serious issues, I believe it’s often best to start the conversations with our kids about important subjects when they’re as young as possible, and that’s what attracts me to this specific book.

Using watercolor color splashes as personas, this deceptively simple book teaches those colors and counting yet turns it all into a lesson about bullying that young minds can grasp. The message about bullying is so well delivered in this book that many reviewers recommend it for older children as well as pre-readers.

Get One by Kathryn Otoshi on your bookshelf and consider giving it as a gift to other young children, and you’ll be giving them way more than just a bed time story. We all benefit when our children learn at an early age to stand up to bullies and to treat others with respect. So pass this tip along to others with this book as a toddler’s birthday present.

Every Parent Should See This Video

Those of us blessed with healthy, fully functioning children still need an understanding of the difficulties and challenges faced by many other people. As parents, it’s our job to instill that understanding and sensitivity toward the ‘disabled’ into our kids.

The autism statistics are staggering, so most of us know or know of a family with an autistic child, and the incredible challenges those families face every day. Many of our kids are in contact with autistic children in their schools. The better we all understand this disability, the more supportive we can all be, and that includes our kids and the way they perceive these different children.

This video provides an incredible glimpse into the world of an autistic child. And blows all our preconceptions out of the water. Given the ‘tool’ of a laptop keyboard, this young girl is able to very precisely articulate her thoughts and her feelings, demonstrating remarkable intelligence despite her inability to speak and her autistic behavior. The message to me is certainly that there is way more going on in that brain than is evident and that we onlookers give credit for. And that’s my point here.

Her very short explanation in this video of what her body feels that results in the behaviors we all now associate with autism is stunning. Again, my take away is that there really is a physical cause rather than a mental deficiency, so it’s important that those afflicted with autism be treated as intelligent and mentally capable.

If we parents have a better understanding of and sensitivity toward this very difficult disability, then we can pass it along to our children, and in a very small way create a better world for these highly challenged people. And if your child does know someone with autism and is old enough, I highly recommend showing them this video.


Life Lessons for Ourselves and our Kids

AppleI feel compelled to take a time out from kids birthday parties to pass along a blog post honoring Steve Jobs and the life lessons and parenting ideas we can all take from his far too short but incredible life.

We all know the ‘story’ of Apple and its rise from a California garage to one of the most highly valued companies on the planet (perhaps THE most highly valued, but I’m not exactly sure). But if you look at these 21 life lessons to understand better how it all came to be, there’s wisdom here for ourselves and for our kids.

Perhaps when roadblocks are put in our kids path, we can remember some of these and use this wisdom to guide our kids. How change is really new opportunities to do new things. How the unexpected can open new doors and new ideas. The simple fact that everybody fails. Perhaps some of these little Steve Jobs ‘stories’ will make a difference to our kids if told to them at the right time.

Our kids all admire the Apple products, so his stories will have an impact: having the right  messenger can help, especially with teens.

So the next time your child gets ‘hit in the head with a brick’, to borrow from these 21 Life Lessons, think of Steve Jobs as you apply your parenting skills and figure out how to guide your child through the rough patches.


Healthy Hurry-Up Breakfast

SmoothieSchool’s back in session, and on hectic weekday mornings we all know how hard it can be to get a good breakfast in them before they head out the door. Having learned a lot about good nutrition as I try to lose some accumulated pounds, I’ve found a good solution to this problem I want to share with parents.

Protein is a key component of human nutrition and it’s the one most responsible for keeping us feeling full. It’s also the toughest to get at breakfast unless your making ham and eggs for your crowd every morning. The carbohydrates in cereal, especially the sugared up ones in kids cereal, are not a good replacement for the protein, and the sugar’s just a bad deal.

But a protein powder based smoothie gets them what they need to get to lunch without being distracted by hunger pangs. Protein powder is generally dairy based, so it’s not for the lactose intolerant. It’s not cheap, but then again the sugared up cereal is exorbitant in price, so it’s a very fair trade. Personally, I use ProGrade Workout protein powder (internet only), but you can find other brands at health food stores and Whole Foods.

Here’s the recipe I find has tons of taste and keeps the hunger away for hours. Follow the protein powder directions for the powder and the liquid, but cut the liquid back a bit- say from 1 cup if that’s what the manufacturer recommends to 3/4 of a cup. If your child doesn’t really need the extra calories in milk, go with water instead, and fill the measuring cup with ice up to your chosen amount, then add the water or milk. The more ice and the less liquid, the thicker the smoothie. Add 2 large or 3 small strawberries and 1/2 a peeled kiwi and blend it up good in your blender. It’s quite delicious.

You can whip this up in just a few short minutes in the morning, especially if you’ve cut up the berries and kiwi the night before. They can drink it while they get dressed, while they fuss in front of the mirror, while they gather up their homework- so it gets into them.

When I find good parenting advice that can be helpful as I’m searching the web for birthday party ideas, I feel compelled to pass them along.


Addictive Behavior

PillsI’m old enough to remember the loss of all the other members of the ’27 club’, and I naively didn’t expect to see it again. But Amy Winehouse’s death makes it pretty clear that the threat is still there for our kids and we parents need to be vigilant. Thanks to www.communities.washingtontimes.com for the slap upside the head to remind all us parents that the addiction danger is still out there and to provide some tips for watching out for signs that our kids might be vulnerable.

Perhaps the most obvious tip for parents, but still worth repeating, is being involved and knowing who your kids are hanging out with. The article suggests making it a point to see who they hang out with in school as well as who they might bring home- the two might be completely different. It’s always good to be involved in the school, and this is yet another reason to do so when you can.

Also obvious is keeping them busy and engaged, with less time to get themselves in trouble or hanging out with the wrong people. The natural endorphins and physical fitness produced by sports makes sports a good pick, but if sports just aren’t in the cards, any activity that engages the child is good- in moderation.

Moderation is key- limits on the amount of time spent doing any one thing. Not only do such limits reduce the possiblity of any addiction, switching focus to different things is a skill everybody needs to develop.

Its obvious when you think about it- any obsessive behavior may be a sign of future addictive behavior. To quote from the article:

Watch for early signs that a child exhibits obsessive behavior or an unnatural or excessive craving and desire for one activity or object (e.g. to play video games, eat, watch tv) and shows extreme reaction of being deprived of that activity or object.

This last tip is a toughie- your teens’ privacy or your right to know and protect them from self-destructive behavior.  When you read that Amy Winehouse’s parents had prepared her obituary 4 years ago, that privacy wall starts to get some pretty big holes in it.

Not a pleasant subject, but this sad death can at least remind everyone to put a parental eye on the lookout for obsessive or addictive behavior that perhaps can be treated early and overcome.

Money Grows On Trees

Money Matters

Money Grows On TreesTeaching our kids about money is a tough but very important thing, so when I see something that can help I need to pass it along to you. This lousy economy has passed along some painful lessons, but this is a fun way to teach the subject instead.

The brokerage firm T. Rowe Price has created these money teaching tools and made them free for anyone to use- Thank You!! These tools are also available at all T. Rowe Price Investor Centers and there’s a hands-on interactive exhibit at Epcot at Disney World in Florida that you should partake of if you’re there.

Findings from the firms’ family money survey apparently led to their creation of these learning tools. There’s both an on-line game and a downloadable activity book that together makes it fun to start learning the tough concepts of value, budgeting, etc. that go into smart money thinking. It’s truly never to early to learn, but boy, it sure can be too late. Just take a look at my daughters’ credit card bills!!!

Follow up the on-line learning these tools provide with grocery store budgeting, conversations over check cashing at the bank or ATM, and you’ll be on your way to raising a money savvy kid. Don’t make it a chore- make it fun and it will pay off in the end.

Many of us adults would have been far better served had we had some financial education in our growing up years, so let’s give it to our kids. You don’t see many lists of kids tips for parents that include financial education, but you should.


Summer Math

NumbersAll us parents try to get our kids to read over the summer so they don’t lose all their skills, but what about their math skills? I’d like to thank the folks at rosehill.patch.com for reminding everyone that we can easily get our kids to practice their math too. This is a parenting tip that everyone can use over the summer to keep those math skills sharp.

Instead of them being totally bored when you take your child(ren) to the grocery store, get them involved in all the math that’s sitting in your shopping cart. How much does each egg in that carton cost? A young one can just count the items in your basket. Have an older child keep a running total (using round numbers) of how much it’s all going to cost as you add items to your cart.

The kitchen is another great place for math, and cooking with your child is fun too.  They can count, measure, time things AND end up with something yummy that they’ve helped to make.

There’s also lots of great kids websites with educational and math oriented online games that can keep kids entertained while keeping those math skills in top form. You’ll find several on the rosehill.patch.com website link above. Perfect when the weather’s got your kids indoors or they just need a break from outside activities.

Many off line games are also good for math– War, dominoes,  Mancala, Soduko. Sit down for a few and play with your child for both math and together time.

Keeping those math skill up to snuff doesn’t have to be a drag– there’s lots of ways to keep it light and fun. You can work this math practice into your summer with ease and your child will be all the better for it next fall.

Water, Water, Only Water

WaterSummer’s now officially here, and I ushered it in with my family at the local pool. We had a good time, but I came away distressed by what I saw. When I then saw the US Food Safety blog about the importance of water, I was simply compelled to pass this kids tip along to all the parents reading my posts.

What upset me at the pool were all these gorgeous 8 and 9 and 10 year olds, as well as pre-teens and young teens, sporting love handles. And often when I matched the kids up with the mom, it was pretty clear that the moms spent a good amount of time at the gym and were in great shape – no love handles there. So the message is clear- it’s not just adult calories that matter.

And one way many of today’s kids are ingesting needless calories is in sport and energy drinks – not to mention soda. And those energy drinks contain major doses of caffeine which kids don’t need.

The American Association of Pediatrics just issued a report outlining the misuse of these products by kids and teens. It flatly states that kids and teens should just plain never drink energy drinks as the stimulants can be harmful to kids and teens. Check those soda cans for the presence of these stimulants too. The report also states that plain water is sufficient for re-hydration after and during exercise in almost all cases, meaning sports drinks and their extra calories really aren’t necessary.

Add this to the fact that we’re all supposed to drink something like 8 8oz glasses of water a day as adults for optimum health, and it just makes good sense to start the water habit early in life. Build a good health habit, keep them hydrated in the hot weather and get rid of those useless calories and maybe the love-handles too. This is an easy change to implement.