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10 Tricks for Helping Kids to Calm Themselves Down

Posted on by Erin

In the heat of the moment, it’s not always easy to help a child calm himself. Learning to self-soothe and finding productive ways of managing anger are essential aspects of your child’s development, though, and shouldn’t be ignored. These 10 tricks can help you equip your child with the tools he needs to manage his emotions in healthy, productive ways so he can calm himself down when he starts to lose control of his feelings.

  • Change Their Environment – As he gets older and more mature, your child will need to learn how to stay calm when he’s in the thick of a conflict. While he’s still young and struggling to control his emotions, however, it’s best to remove him from an upsetting situation by changing his environment at the onset of a tantrum. Remove your child from the upsetting situation so he can calm down without further triggers, then work on building the necessary control when he’s feeling more composed.
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  • Keep Your Own Anger in Check – You can’t teach your child to calm himself when he’s listening to you lose your own composure. Kids can try your patience in the best of situations, but losing your temper while you’re trying to help your child learn to manage his own anger is both counterproductive and confusing to him.
  • Give Kids an Emotional Vocabulary – Many tantrums spring from a fundamental frustration kids feel over not being able to adequately convey his emotional state any other way. Equipping your child with an emotional vocabulary allows him to use his words to express how he’s feeling, rather than emotional outbursts and tantrums. When your child is calm and happy, talk about feelings and the names for specific emotions. That way, when he’s frustrated or angry, he’s able to more accurately communicate those feelings.
  • Talk About Recognizing the Signs of an Impending Episode – The key to helping your child maintain his composure and calm himself down is first helping him to recognize the signs of an outburst before it happens. It’s far easier for your child to calm down before a tantrum than it will be for him to stop one that’s already rolling, so work on finding ways to identify an episode before it picks up steam and becomes too much for him to handle.
  • Work On Building Empathy – When kids have a clear understanding of how their outbursts, hurtful words and lashing out hurts other people, it’s easier for them to understand why they should avoid having an outburst in the first place. Find ways to encourage compassion and to foster an environment of empathy so that later, when your child is angry, he understands that his actions and words can hurt the people around him.
  • Learn Breathing Exercises Together – After a tantrum has passed and your child is in control of his emotions again, talk about breathing exercises he can do when he feels his anger, fear, frustration or anxiety spiraling out of control. Not only are you addressing his anger directly, you’re also giving him the tools he needs to actively avoid the next episode.
  • Don’t Reward Outbursts – When a child is screaming, crying or acting out, it can feel easier in the moment to just give in to his demands than to stand your ground. This will stop the screeching and restore some measure of peace to your household, however temporarily, and will send your child the message than an outburst will help him achieve the result he’s looking for. Make a point of not rewarding tantrums or angry demands.
  • Redirect Little Ones’ Attention – For very young children, the best way to get his mind off of the irritant is to simply redirect his attention until he’s feeling more calm. At such a young age, your child may not even have the emotional maturity to calm himself down. He’ll need your help until he’s a bit older, so just practice redirection and building compassion.
  • Save the Big Conversations for Later – Your child, regardless of age, is not going to hear the message behind your words when he’s in the thick of a tantrum. No matter how insightful and helpful your statements are, they will be ineffective until he’s calm enough to process them.
  • Avoid Minimizing Kids’ Feelings – Telling an upset or angry child not to cry or that the trigger behind a tantrum isn’t important may
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    feel like a solid strategy, but it’s actually one that can cause bigger problems. Your child only hears you minimizing his feelings and telling him that he shouldn’t feel that way, that he’s wrong for being upset and that he’s overreacting. Instead of saying “this isn’t important,” try telling your child that you understand why he’s upset, and that you’ll be willing to talk about it when he’s more calm and capable of conversation.

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Kosher Kitchen Cheat Sheet for Nannies

Posted on by Erin

Working for a family that observes a different faith than your own can be confusing, especially when the laws of their religion are very particular and completely foreign to you. For non-Jewish nannies that are employed by observant Jewish families that keep kosher, the process of preparing food for the kids under their care requires a completely new and different approach. While the intricate laws of the Torah governing kashering and keeping kosher are quite in-depth, this quick cheat sheet can prove to be a valuable reference in the kitchen.

  • Never Mix Meat and Dairy – While different families may have different degrees of strictness when it comes to kosher food, one tenet that is universal is that meat and dairy products may not come into contact with one another. That means more than just skipping the cheese on a turkey sandwich, though. Many kosher families maintain separate pans and plates for meat and dairy products. Your best bet, as a non-Jewish nanny, is to keep meat and dairy completely separate and to never serve both at the same time.
  • Stay Pork and Shellfish Free – Some people of the Jewish faith are less strict than others, and may keep kosher only at home or have other exceptions to the rule. As the nanny, however, these rules are not for you to try to interpret unless you’re expressly asked to provide a certain meal or order certain dishes in a restaurant. Only visit restaurants you’re cleared to visit
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    with the children, and never allow kids to eat pork products or any type of shellfish.

  • Don’t Bring Your Own Food Into the House – When you bring your ham and cheese sandwich into a kosher house, the entire kitchen may have to go through the kashering process again. Rather than running the risk of bringing forbidden foods into the house, make arrangements with your employer
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    that will allow you not to have to bring your own food to work.

  • Only Serve Reheated Foods That Were Previously Prepared – Depending on the observance level of your employing family, you may be restricted when it comes to the types of foods you can serve to the children as a non-Jewish caretaker. The laws governing bishul akum come into play when certain foods are prepared by non-Jews, even if the entire meal is completely kosher. Foods that could not be eaten raw may not be prepared by a non-Jewish person for the kosher Jewish diner, nor can formal meals prepared exclusively by those not of the Jewish faith. Minimal participation on the behalf of your employers may be enough to adhere to their practice of bishul Yisrael, so you may be able to reheat meals that they have previously prepared.
  • Keep Utensils Separate – The spoon you used to serve macaroni and cheese can’t be used to stir a dish containing meat later, so many observant and kosher Jewish families maintain separate utensils for meat and dairy products. Understanding which your employing family designates for each role is imperative, as is keeping those items separate at all times.
  • Be Careful With Grapes – Certain grape products, including juices, can’t be served if they were made by non-Jews. Since so many commercial fruit drinks are sweetened with grape juice, it’s important never to purchase fruit or fruit-flavored drinks unless you’re completely sure that they either contain no grape products, or that they’re certified kosher.
  • Know your Symbols – It’s unlikely that your employers will ask you to do any grocery shopping, since they understand how complicated the rules of kashrut are for non-Jewish people. It’s still wise to learn the symbols to look for in regards to food shopping, though, just so you’re prepared in the event that you do have to make a few purchases.
  • When in Doubt, Ask! – When your Jewish employers made the decision to hire a non-Jewish nanny, they almost certainly understood that there would be an adjustment period during which you would have to ask many questions in order to be respectful of their faith and the dietary restrictions that come with it. It’s always better to ask a question than to make a mistake when it comes to kosher diets for your charges and keeping your employers’ kitchen kosher, so never hesitate to approach your employers with any concerns or about anything that you’re not sure of.
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10 Tips for Transitioning to a New School this Fall

Posted on by Erin

By Erin McNeill Fall is generally a time of big transitions for kids as they head back to school and leave behind the unstructured days of summer, but for kids who will be heading to new schools this fall, it can be an unsettling time of worry and anxiety. Here are some tips for helping your child transition to a new school this fall.

  • Visit your new school together – Find out when the school will be open and if they will allow you to walk around with your child. If you can go early, it’s a good idea to scope out where their classroom is located and where they will store their belongings, and figure out the path to the cafeteria, playground and library. Being familiar with the school will help them feel a little less lost on their first days this fall. Print out a map if you are able, and mark the important locations on the map together.
  • Go to the open house and meet your teacher – Meeting your child’s teacher will allow the teacher and your child to connect, eliminating the anxiety of meeting their teacher on the first day. Open houses will also allow your child to connect with other children from their grade and class, and for you to meet the parents of the children.
  • Travel the route together – Whether your child will be walking, taking the bus or driving to school, travel the route together a few times before school starts. Your child will feel better if they know how to get to and from school.
  • Engage your child in activities – If your child played a sport or instrument at their old school, find activities in their new schools that will match these interests. It will allow them to connect with peers who have the same interests, as well as give them a way to meet new people.
  • Meet your neighbors – Participate in neighborhood activities; chances are there will be at least a few kids that are near the same age as your child and they will also likely attend the same school as your child.
  • Talk about schedules – Discuss
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    the school schedule with your child and allow them to ask questions about it. You may not have details available, but you should be able to find out the things they want to know, such as when recess and lunch are. When your child knows what to expect it helps him relax and not be quite as anxious about his experience at a new school.

  • Remain positive – Changing schools can be nerve racking for everyone involved, but it’s best to remain positive about the changes, regardless of why they’re occurring. Helping your child remain positive will reduce the stress they feel about the upcoming change, and if they see that you are positive they are likely to follow your lead.
  • Keep routines at home the same – Changing schools is a big step for kids, so keeping your routines and timing as consistent as possible at home can help take away some of the pressure from all of the school changes going on.
  • Teach friend-making skills – There are times where your children may not have had to really make friends because they’ve just always been there. Teach your child how to introduce themselves, tell others about themselves and ask questions of other child to engage them in conversation. Lead by example as you meet new people in your neighborhood.
  • Keep communication open – Talk to your child about the upcoming changes. Discuss what they are anxious about and what they are excited about. Continue to ask questions and talk about experiences, adventures and issues they may encounter at their new school. Encourage them to come to you if there are problems they’d like to discuss.

Changing schools is something that sometimes can’t be avoided, whether it’s a natural transition or one that’s happening due to a move, and the changes will likely be hard on your child. Keep in mind that no matter the reason, children will need support as they navigate their way through these new experiences. Be there for them, keep communication lines open and find ways to meet people together!

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Art Projects That Are Perfect to Do Outside

Posted on by Erin

By Erin McNeill

Summer is the perfect time to play outdoors, but even better, it’s the perfect time to do all of those really messy art projects outside! Here are a few messy projects you can do with the kids to get you crafting outdoors this summer.

Tie Dye – Tie dying is a classic summer activity that every child will enjoy doing! Because dye can stain items easily, tie dying is the perfect outdoor activity. You can buy a kit that includes most of the items you’ll need for the project, or you can do a classic RIT dye. Kits generally produce more vibrant colors that last longer on the fabric, but if this is your first time, you may want to go with a simpler, cheaper version using the RIT dyes. Invite the neighborhood kids over (with parents) to join in on the fun! You’ll want to read the directions for the dye and follow them exactly. There are many different methods you can use for placing the rubber bands on your item to create varying designs, and you’re sure to come out with a unique work of art every time.

Splatter Painting – Thin out some tempera paint with water, grab some paint brushes of varying sizes and put a large piece of paper on the ground for your children to stand around. Let them figure out how they’d like to get the paint on the paper, but assure them it’s okay to fling the paint and spray the paint using their brush and their hands. With the help of a garden hose, clean up should be a breeze!

Garden Rock Painting – Collect rocks from your yard or street and place paints out so that your children can turn their rocks into creatures or pets. Set out googly eyes, glitter pens and permanent markers and see what the kids can create.

Stepping Stones – Stepping stones are perfect for the garden or landscaped areas of your yard. You can purchase stepping stone kits or just the cement mix to make your own stone. Have your children gather supplies to decorate their stones; they can use rocks, leaves for imprints, jewels, gems and paint (once the stone is dry) to embellish their piece of art. Hand prints or foot prints are a great way to document their growth each year. Be sure to imprint the year of the creation onto the back before it dries!

Homemade Sidewalk Paint – Combine ¼ cup of corn starch with ¼ cup of water and add eight drops of food coloring to create homemade sidewalk paint, then use a paint brush to paint the sidewalk or driveway with your paint. The color will become more vibrant as the paint dries. Because the paint is all natural, it won’t harm anything that it gets on and will easily wash away with some rain or a spray of the hose.

Turtle Mosaic – Using a paper plate for the back shell of the turtle, collect small rocks and stones to glue onto the “shell.” Use construction paper to create a head, legs and a tail for your turtle. Once the glue is dry, have the kids paint their turtles.

Pressed Flowers – Collect flowers from your garden and lay them flat between sheets of newspaper. Use heavy books on top of the paper to press your flowers flat. Check on them every few days to see how they are progressing. Depending on your climate, it may take awhile for your flowers to dry. Once they are dry you can use them in art projects or to make cards out of.

Stick Figures – Gather small and medium sticks to make figures out of. Clean off your sticks, including removing any loose bark. Paint your stick with a base coat of white paint and let it dry. Once dry, use your imagination to turn your stick into a creature. You can use pom-poms, glitter glue, paint, pipe cleaners, markers and whatever else you desire to make unique creations. Put on a play with your creatures once they are dry.

Packing Peanut Sculptures – A bit of water and some biodegradable packing peanuts can turn your backyard into a sculpture park! The packing peanuts will stick together once you’ve applied a tiny bit of water to contact points. A sponge is the best way to control the amount of water your child is placing on the packing peanut (too much will cause it to biodegrade). Have an art show once everyone is done with their sculpture. Once you are done you can either let the rain wash away your creation or use the hose to melt it all away.

Exploding Art – Place a large piece of paper on the ground and gather your supplies. You’ll need baking soda, vinegar, washable paint, toilet paper and sandwich size baggies. Place one tablespoon of baking soda on a square of toilet paper, wrap the toilet paper around the baking soda to create a little package and place the package inside the baggie. Measure out 1/3 of a cup of vinegar and mix with one tablespoon of paint. Pour this mixture into the baggie and seal shut, trying to leave very little air in the baggie as you do this. Once the baggie is sealed, give it a shake and place it on the paper on the ground. The bag will start to expand as the baking soda and vinegar combine, and the bag will eventually pop and leave a mark of art where it once stood! How many different colors can you make?

Your backyard is the perfect place to let your children get as messy as they’d like, and you can hose them off once they’re done. What amazing things can your child create this summer?

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How to Create a Memorable Art Museum Visit for Kids

Posted on by Erin

By Erin McNeill

Taking your children to an art museum doesn’t have to be a dreaded experience! Did you know you can actually make it a fun and engaging learning experience for you and your family? A bit of planning and knowledge ahead of time will allow you to build the best experience possible for your family. It’s important to keep in mind that you are taking children to a museum, and that children, regardless of their setting, have very short attention spans. Take the time to plan out your visit, look for ways to engage your child during your visit and once you’re home continue discussing your experience at the museum.

Prepare – Take the time to plan out your museum visit, or parts of it, as a family. Print a map of the museum you are visiting and allow your children to pick an exhibit or two that they would really like to experience. Talk about what you will see there and check out books from the library on the different types of art you’ll be experiencing at the museum. Check out the museum website for activities that are child specific. Many museums will offer activities and programs geared toward young children. Remind your children of proper museum etiquette, such as looking with their eyes (artwork is generally not for touching), using their walking feet and keeping their voices at an indoor level.

Let your children take lead – Follow their cues and allow them to guide the visit. Stop and look at exhibits that interest them. Give them the map and allow them to lead you from one exhibit to the next. Be prepared to take frequent breaks for the bathroom, to rest and for snacks. The quietest time at museums is generally from 3pm to 5pm, so take advantage of this slower time to enjoy the museum with your children!

Engage them – Ask them questions, both thoughtful and silly. Which sculpture has the biggest eyes? Who used the most amount of orange in their painting? What would you do if you were in the painting? Can you strike a pose? All of these questions will get children thinking about and interacting with the art in a fun and thoughtful way. You can also come up with a theme for the visit; perhaps you’ll visit all of the sculptures today, or maybe you’ll search for all of the paintings that have balls in them. Make it something your child can relate to, so they feel like they are a part of the experience. You can also play games at the museum, such as I Spy, memory (examine a piece of work for one minute, turn around, then have the other person ask questions about the piece to see what you can remember!). Take the time to make sketches of the work that you see; most museums will allow a notebook and pencil to be brought into exhibits. This is a great way to capture what your child is thinking about and seeing during a visit to the museum.

On the

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way home – Take the time to stop in the gift shop and pick up something inexpensive to remind your children of their trip to the museum. This can be something as simple as a postcard. Talk about the art that’s on the postcard, or the artist who drew it. Ask about highlights and favorite pieces from the visit. See what they would be interested in seeing on their next visit to the museum. Did they have a favorite area of the museum that they’d like to visit again?

At home – Once you’re home, color in any sketches that you made while at the museum. You can also see if you can recreate any of the work that you saw, or make art for your own museum in your backyard! Discuss what your future visit will look like and be sure to take notes so you remember what you really wanted to see next time.

Letting your children guide their museum experience will ensure that they will have a fun and memorable visit and that they will want to go back in the future! Allow your budding artists to express themselves through the art that they’ve seen, and encourage them to create their own galleries. You never know where you might find their artwork in the future!

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10 Water Games for Kids of All Ages

Posted on by Erin

By Erin McNeill

The summer is warming up quickly, and you may not always have access to a beach or pool to beat the heat, so here are a few games you can do in your own backyard that will help the kids cool off on a hot summer day. Make sure that you always have water available for the kids to drink, as you want the kids to stay well hydrated while playing outside. Some of them are variations on old favorites, while others are wonderful new ideas for you to try out!

  • Drip, Drip, Splash – Drip, Drip, Splash is played much like the age-old favorite of Duck, Duck, Goose! Everyone sits in a circle and the person who is “it” gets up from their space and starts around the circle with a cup of water. For each “drip” they’ll sprinkle a small amount of water on that person’s head. When they decide to “splash” they’ll dump the rest of the cup onto that person’s head. The splashed participant gets up and chases “it” around the circle and tries to beat him back to his original spot. If “it” is tagged, they remain “it” for another round. If “it” is not tagged, the person they splashed is now “it” and the game begins again!
  • Relay Races – Break the kids up into two teams, making them as even as you can. Kids will take turns with different tasks, giving each child a chance at each activity. You can do races with sponges, such as running a water soaked sponge from one bucket to another and then wringing it out, and the first team to fill their bucket wins! You can also pass a sponge over one person’s head and under the next person’s legs, and the first team to complete this with everyone on their team is the winner. Or, soak a t-shirt large enough to fit everyone on the team (have one for each team) and have each member put it on and then take it off again; when they are done, have them pass it to the person behind them. Have your kids come
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    up with other relays involving water to stay cool!

  • Slip and Slide with Style – Set up a slip and slide and have the kids take turns going down the chute with style! Have them strike a pose while sliding, let
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    other participants judge them and give out awards for style!

  • Ball Blast – Create a circle using ropes and place balls in the middle of the circle. Give your child the hose (if you have multiple hoses go ahead and hook them all up) and time them to see how long it takes for them to spray all of the balls out of the circle. Other participants can benefit from the spray of the hose until it is their turn!
  • Beach Towel Volleyball – You need pairs for this activity, each pair needs a beach towel and you need one water balloon for each round. Have the kids hold the towel so it is stretched out between them and then place the balloon in the middle of their towel. Then challenge them to launch the water balloon onto the towel of the next set of kids. Points are awarded for every successful toss and catch!
  • Frozen T-shirt Relay – Have each child give you a t-shirt, but don’t let them know what it’s for. Place it in a Ziploc baggie after soaking it well with water, and let it freeze for several hours. When it’s time to play give each kid the baggie with their shirt in it – they’ll be shocked that your froze their clothing! Let them know that the first one to unfreeze their t-shirt from the ice wins the game, but they can only use their own body heat to get the job done!
  • Back to Back – You’ll need several water balloons for each pair of participants with this game. Have them stand back-to-back and place a water balloon between them. They’ll then need to move together to get the balloon into the bucket. See who can fill the bucket first or who can get the most balloons into the bucket in a set amount of time.
  • Sponge Tag – Soak a sponge in water and select someone to be “it.” Whoever is “it” will get the sponge and try to tag people with it. When they tag someone they are now “it” and must go re-soak the sponge!
  • Beach Bowling – Set up sand castle pins, or use buckets or whatever toys you have available. Soak a sponge ball in water and start bowling. You could also do a variation of this in your backyard by filling bottles with water and using a water balloon.
  • Water Balloon Baseball – Using a plastic bat and water balloons, set up batting practice in your backyard. The kids can either pitch to themselves or you can pitch to them. Have them earn points for successfully bursting balloons with the bat (they’ll have a blast getting soaked in the process!). You can take it a step further and run bases (one base for each broken balloon) and missing or not breaking a balloon can count as a strike.

Remember to always play the games in shady areas, as to limit sun exposure and the risk of heat related illness. It’s also important to remember to pick up broken balloons as they are choking hazards for young children and the animals that visit your yard.

What other variations of these games can you and your children come up with?

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10 Water Play Activities for Children of All Ages

Posted on by Erin

By Erin McNeill The excitement over the dog days of summer, while highly anticipated during the school year, has a tendency to wane as the days drag on. Instead of listening to, “I’m bored!” over and over again, get the kids outside and active. These 10 water activities will help your kids beat the heat and keep them entertained for hours.

  • Water relays – Have the kids invite their friends over to participate in water games. Break into two teams and set-up various relays for them, such as a water balloon toss, sponge pass, filling up buckets with cups of water and putting on clothing that has been dunked in the pool! Mix it up and make it as crazy as you can!
  • Summer sponge bombs – Check out the tutorial on WhipperBerry for making your own sponge bombs. Once your sponges are ready, soak up some water and start a battle! You could play tag with them, have a “snowball” fight or even play dodge ball together. The possibilities are endless, so use your imagination!
  • Water balloon catapult – The ultimate in summer fun is easily the water balloon catapult! An adult needs to help with the construction of the catapult, and don’t be surprised if you find yourself wanting to join in on the fun! Once you’ve built one or two, set-up a game of war and attack each other! When you are hit with a balloon you become injured and must run around on one leg. Other ideas include launching balloons at targets and distance competitions.
  • Create a water table – Playing in water is a great sensory activity for kids of all ages because water is calming (even if the play isn’t!) and relaxing to the mind and body. When creating your water table, consider adding a theme, throwing in whatever you can find (buckets, cups, scoops) and adding a few drops of food coloring to make it different.
  • Pool noodle waterfall – Pool noodles are versatile, even outside of the pool. You can create a pool noodle waterfall by plugging one end of the noodle (tape it with duct tape), poking holes on one side of the noodle and inserting a garden hose into the open end. Younger kids will enjoy the waterfall effect more so than a traditional sprinkler as it’s a bit gentler and much less intimidating!
  • Soap boat races – This is a fun, simple and clean activity for kids this summer from I Heart Naptime. All you need are a few plastic gutters and a bar or two of soap. You can also make sails for the boats if you want to get really fancy! Assemble the sails on your boats, set up the gutters in your backyard on a slope and place the hose on the gutters so you get water flow. When you are ready, place your boats in the gutters and see whose soap boat goes the fastest!
  • Car washA kiddie car wash is the perfect way to keep bikes, ride-on toys and even your kids clean this summer! This is a more involved project that requires supplies from the hardware store, cutting PVC pipe and assembly, but your kids can help put it all together. It’s sure to be a hit this summer!
  • Limbo contest – Use your hose to start a limbo contest! Spray the water and

    have kids do the limbo just like you would with a stick! How low can you go?

  • Doll baths – Set up a baby tub outside and give your children waterproof baby dolls to bathe with soap and sponges. What else can they find to wash? Your backyard toys will be sparkling after this fun activity!
  • Extreme sprinklerHome Spun Threads has an excellent guide on making your own extreme sprinkler this summer! A few pieces of PVC pipe and a few tools to get the job done, plus a bit of time, will equal tons of fun in your own backyard this summer!

Have your children help you assemble and set-up the activities, that way they can do it on their own the next time they’d like to do it. What other variations can they come up with? Your children are sure to enjoy the activities, and the variations on each activity are endless!

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10 Summer Sensory Activities for Toddlers

Posted on by Erin

By Erin McNeill

Summer is a great time to get out all of the messy art projects because you can bring them outdoors to keep the mess outside and clean up simple. You can also incorporate water, ice and other techniques to many of the projects, making it a great way to stay cool as well! Your toddler will appreciate these activities on those days where it seems like you’ve done everything you can to keep them cool and entertained!

  • Nature art – Go for a walk or hike together and collect nature items, such as leaves, sticks, rocks or shells. Bring a bag or bucket with you to hold the items and remind your child not to pick living things to use in their project. Once home, create a frame out of cardboard or cardstock and have your child glue the items to the frame. Once the frame is dry, print out a picture of your adventure together and place it in the frame.
  • Treasure hunts – Gather treasures to hide in your sandbox; you can use anything you’d like, though small toys that won’t be harmed by sand or moisture will work best. You can also create a theme for the hunt, such as transportation vehicles or a beach theme. Hide the objects in the sand and then have your child use his hands or a small shovel to dig through the sand to find the items. It might be helpful to also have a sifter for your child to use to find smaller objects. Make a checklist with photographs, so your child will be able to match up the objects to the list to ensure that they’ve found all of the objects on the treasure hunt list.
  • Frozen paints – Combine shaving cream, a drop or two of food coloring and a few drops of scent if you’d like, then freeze the mixture in ice cube trays. Once frozen, take the cubes out of the tray and let your child paint with the cubes on a large sheet of paper outside. Once you are done with the project, clean-up will be easy – just rinse off with a hose! If you are concerned about your child ingesting the shaving cream, substitute in cool whip.
  • Water table – Any shallow plastic bin can be used as a water table if you don’t have something specifically made for this activity. You can add some sand or some food coloring to make it a bit more interesting for your child. Then, just place some cups, spoons, bath toys, funnels and anything else you can find that would work and let your child play in the water. They will enjoy scooping, dumping, transferring and splashing the water as they play! Add ice cubes on a really hot day for even more fun (and it’s a great way to keep cool on those really hot summer days!).
  • Bubbles – You can make your own or use store bought bubbles. Set up experiments using pipe cleaner wands or even create your own out of string and straws. Make the biggest bubbles that you can, or find a way to create a lot of bubbles all at once. A plastic kiddie pool can be used to hold tons of bubble solution and a hula-hoop can be used as a supersize bubble wand.
  • Make mud – Place some dirt in a bin or kiddie pool and add enough water to create mud. Give your child toys to play in the mud with; construction vehicles work particularly well for this activity! Let them get in the pool and experience the mud on their body if they’d like!
  • Ice painting – Freeze water with added food coloring into ice cubes. You can set up a variety of painting experiences; one of the most fun is to set up paper on your slide and allow kids to release the ice cubes down the slide (put a bin at the bottom to catch them so you can use them again!). You could also place paper in an empty pool or just on the ground.
  • Big art projects – Summer is the perfect time to hang a big piece of canvas or paper on your fence and give kids tools to paint the canvas however they would like, including spraying it with paint, splatter painting or just a big finger painting experiment.
  • Beach dough – Combine 1 cup of play sand, 1 cup of flour, 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil and t tablespoon of cream of tartar. Add small amounts of boiling water (total will be ½ to ¾ cup of water) until it all combines and then knead the dough to make it useable. Give your child shells, sticks or jewels to add to the dough to create beach sand art! Allow them to play with the dough however they’d like, you don’t have to end up with beach sculptures if your children would rather just manipulate the dough!
  • Water blob – Visit the Clumsy Crafter to read the tutorial on creating a water blob for your kids – it’s the ultimate water sensory experience for children of all ages!

Most of these projects are easy to set-up and obtain the materials for, as well as to clean-up when you are all done. You may find that your toddler wants to do some of the activities over and over again this summer, so be sure to set aside special materials so that you will have them at the ready!

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10 Tips to Keep Little Ones Safe Around Pools at Home

Posted on by Erin

By Erin McNeill Pool season is upon us and it’s up to you to create a safe environment for kids to swim in. Swimming can be such a huge relief in the heat of the summer, but it can also turn a fun day into a tragic one in minutes. Here are some tips to keep your loved ones safe around the pool.

  • Adult supervision is always required – An adult should supervise all water activities. Children who cannot swim should always remain an arm’s length away, at the most. Never leave children of any age unattended while swimming, and pay attention to older kids while they are in the water, even if you feel that they are good swimmers. Drowning only takes seconds and often happens silently.
  • Enclose the pool with a fence – The fence should be at least 4’ high, enclosed on all sides of the pool and have a childproof safety gate to gain entry to the area. Ensure there are no gaps along the edges or bottom of the pool that could allow a child to sneak through and gain entry to the pool.
  • Pool safety rules – All swimmers should be reminded of the pool rules: no running around the pool, always swim with an adult, never push anyone into the pool, no jumping onto other people in the pool, don’t dive in shallow water and never swim alone! It may seem like a lot of rules, but kids need to know how serious pool safety is.
  • Swim lessons – All kids should start swim lessons by the age of two or three, though they can start younger if you’d like. It’s important that your child can swim to the side of the pool and that they know what to do in an emergency should they accidentally fall into the pool. Very young children can be taught basic self-rescue skills, such as floating on their backs, being able to swim a short distance underwater and knowing how to get themselves out of the pool.
  • Remove temptation when the pool is not in use – Invest in a sturdy pool cover for your pool, preferably one that needs a key to open and one that can safely be walked on should a child wander over the cover. Remove all toys, floaties and other items from the area and store them out of view. If an area doesn’t look fun, a child is less likely to want to enter the area to begin with.
  • Consider installing alarms and locks – Installing a surface wave alarm will alert you when the surface of the water has been broken. They can be turned off while you are in the pool and then reactivated once you leave the area. You should also consider locks and alarms for doors and gates leading to the pool area. They will alert you if someone is trying to open the door or gate to the pool area and can be turned off while you are using the area. They are not a replacement for a well-fenced in pool, but an addition to your pool security protocol.
  • Keep your pool clean and clear – Stay up to date with pool maintenance, always make sure your chemicals remain at appropriate levels, keep your filters clean and make sure your circulation system is free of debris. This will ensure that you have clear pool water and can safely see to the bottom of the pool.
  • Keep away from pool drains – Always have swimmers stay away from pool drains to reduce the risk of something getting caught on the drain and a swimmer getting trapped at the bottom of the pool.
  • Remove risk – Always empty small pools and buckets of water after each use and place them upside down if you store them outside, that way they won’t collect water. Remove ladders and lock them up if you possibly can; this is especially important for above ground pools that may not have fences or alarms on them. Removing access to bodies of water reduces the risk of drowning.
  • Know first aid and CPR – Every adult in your household should be appropriately trained in first aid and CPR so that they can adequately respond to any emergency that may happen in your household. It’s a good idea to always keep a phone with you by the pool, that way you have quick
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Drowning can happen to anyone, at anytime. If you cannot find your child, check your pool first so you don’t waste precious time. Swimming is such a wonderful activity to do with your children, so do everything that you can to make those memories positive ones this summer!

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How to Create a Neighborhood Camp for Kids

Posted on by Erin

By Erin McNeill

Are you tired of hearing the age-old phrase, “I’m bored!” once summer vacation hits? Consider working together with your neighbors to create a camp for the kids on the block! A summer camp can accommodate children of many ages without a lot of extra planning involved. It’s also a great way to get to know your neighbors if you haven’t already. By working together, you can create a camp that your children will love and that will make the summer a bit easier on you.

Choose someone to be the head organizer of the camp – Having a designated person to organize the operations of the neighborhood camp will ensure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to the details of camp. It doesn’t mean that they have to do all of the planning and organizing, only that they are the point person that people can come to while working on, planning and organizing events.

Share the load and assign roles – By sharing the load with your neighbors, you’ll ensure that everyone is equally vested in the experience, and it will take the load off of one person who may otherwise end up doing all of the coordinating, planning and running of the camp!

Schedule – Decide on a schedule together. How often will the camp meet? What are the times that it will run? Is it the same day every week or does it run for just a week? Deciding on these details together will allow others to plan their schedules to accommodate the camp schedule. If you are switching houses and camp leaders, be sure to come up with a schedule that everyone can be included in and that will allow everyone to have their turn running camp. It can get tricky with summer vacations and other activities, so remain flexible!

Determine what type of camp it is – Will you do a drop-off camp to allow other parents to have a break or do you want caregivers to stay with the children while at camp? Some parents and caregivers may not be comfortable dropping their child off for the morning, while others may not be able to reciprocate having the children in their care another time.

Gather paperwork for each child – Create sign-up forms for children and make sure each child has a signed permission slip, medical treatment form and emergency contact form in case of an emergency. This will be less of an issue if caregivers are staying at camp with their child, but if a parent is dropping their child off with you the forms are a must! Make sure you are aware of all medical issues children might be coming to camp with; it’s important to know if a child is allergic to something or is asthmatic, and you’ll need to know how to treat the child in an emergency.

Keep costs low – Have families donate supplies needed for camp or consider asking everyone to contribute a small amount of money towards a camp fund to buy art supplies and snacks or to cover entrance fees to low-cost events. It will help to have someone keep track of expenses and keep a budget for the camp.

Themes – Decide on a theme for the camp! Ask the children what they are interested in and focus on activities to fit within the theme. You can change the theme throughout the summer if you’d like, or you can simply stick to a larger theme for the entire summer.

Projects – Decide on what projects you’d like to do for the summer. It’s your time to be creative! Tie dye, art, building materials and science experiments are always fun to incorporate into summer planning, especially when messy projects can be done outside and then followed up with a run through the sprinkler!

Activities – Plan out what activities you’d like to do at camp this summer and how you can get everyone involved in the activities. A field trip to a local swimming place together, child-friendly hiking and going to a museum are activities that are going to require adults to chaperone them. Running through the sprinkler, having a backyard parade and simple art projects will require much less supervision and are just as much fun!

Have fun! – Creating a neighborhood summer camp is all about having fun, getting the kids together and doing activities that you may not normally do on your own! You can make the camp anything you’d like it to be.

If you are stuck for ideas on what to do at camp, a quick web search will bring up tons of activity ideas to do for summer! Make sure that you communicate with all members of the camp, so that they are up to date on the latest news on the camp operations. You don’t have to spend a ton of money to send your child to camp this summer; with a little hard work and a bit of preparation you can create your own summer camp experience that your children won’t soon forget!

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