thanksgiving

How to Get Kids Involved During Thanksgiving

Kids are naturally plugged into the holidays. There are commercials, events and activities engulfing our kids’ attention during the holidays. Thanksgiving lacks the glitter, and hype of other holidays. How do you get the Thanksgiving meaning across while getting your kids involved?

History Lesson

This holiday has a built-in history lesson of our forefathers first Thanksgiving. Why not involve your kids in the true meaning of Thanksgiving. Scholastic has a number of excellent books for all ages for kids to learn about this tradition.

If your little learner loves computer interactive games, Plimoth.org has a great interactive game that lets you and your child be the historian during the first Thanksgiving. There is also another interactive game on their site about how to build a ship and sail it like the pilgrims.

Create Thanksgiving Traditions

  • Make decorations and crafts for your own special tradition.
  • Watch or go to a parade and join the camaraderie of the holiday.
  • Have a board game Thanksgiving fun time.
  • Make a special dish with everyone pitching in for the special meal.
  • A great way to learn to measure and food chemical combinations are to get your kids involved in measuring, mixing and preparing traditional dishes.
  • Have a fun moment going around the table and everyone says what they are thankful for from the past year.
  • Watch your favorite holiday movies and sports as a family.
  • Have your kids count heads and place the dinner setting. This a great way to teach kids to count, sort, group and organize.

Excited About Traditions

Thanksgiving is not a commercialized holiday involving spending money on items. It is a time to spend quality time with family and friends. Why not incorporate learning activities into the bonding of this holiday time? It is a great time to establish traditions, teach history, and share annual family bonding. Also, It is a great time to take a deep breath before winter and other holiday events. Create your traditions and enjoy a welcome respite.

Create A Family Cookbook For A Fun Family Project

If you are looking for a project to work on together as a family, a family cookbook is a fun project to take on.

Every family has memories surrounding food. Not only the food itself but the stories that go with it. A family cookbook would be a good way to treasure those memories for yourself and future generations and pass on cherished recipes. It is an informal recording of your family’s history as well.

Here are some ideas for making your family cookbook:

  • Collect recipes. Besides your own recipes, collect them from relatives. If you can find some written by hand, that makes them extra special. They can be copied and added to the book. If you don’t have the exact recipe but you know your mom loved pineapple upside down cake, for example, you can find a recipe for the cake and just mark it with a little note about how it was mom’s favorite.
  • Add stories. Add a story or memories surrounding that food to make the cookbook more personal. It could be similar to a scrapbook format. Ask family members to tell you things that they remember. You can either type these or let a relative who has nice hand writing, write it out for you. Writing them out would be a good way older children or teens could contribute to the book.
  • Use photos. Adding photos will really make your book special. You can find family photos when you were cooking or eating together or maybe photograph grandma demonstrating the steps of a more complicated recipe.
  • Add history. The youngest family members probably don’t know that before there were refrigerators the ice man delivered a block of ice to your door to keep your food cold in your icebox. Many adult children don’t know that during the 1960’s the milkman would leave milk at your door in a metal box that he would fill with ice. That way it stayed cold until you got home from work. Many children today probably don’t even know what a milkman is! So adding history in pictures or words will educate and add some nostalgia to your family cookbook. The warmest memories might come from listening to grandma or grandpa relate these memories!
  • Get them printed. Just look online and you will find several companies that will print your cookbook. You just choose the cover, the type of binding, and the content and they will print your book. Or, if you are feeling creative and want to give it a personal touch, you could assemble it yourself. Wouldn’t this make a wonderful gift for relatives?

Getting the family together to collaborate on a fun family project is a great way to spend time together and to create memories for now and later!

4 Tips to Keep your Child Interested in School

School is fun at first, but it can become stressful and overwhelming for the teachers, parents, and students. Once the children start getting a sense of normalcy at school, they tend to lose focus and interest in the education. So how do parents help to keep them interested in school? Here are some tips to help:

  1. Know what your child is learning. Ask your child about each subject in school. To ensure that you know the curriculum, it helps to stay in contact with their teacher(s). Help your child with their homework regularly so that you can become familiar with the types of assignments that they are getting. Knowing the types of assignments and frequency of homework in their class(es) will make it more obvious to you if your child is forgetting homework.
  2. Play games and sing songs. If your child is struggling in a subject, try to make it more fun to learn. Some children stop putting forth an effort if they feel as though they are falling behind. In order to keep this from happening, make up your own games and songs to help your child understand. Some things already have games and, if you aren’t terribly creative, there are a lot of great ideas online.
  3. Read together. Books are low on the list of fun things to do with your children. They don’t want to read when they could be watching TV or playing video games. The best solution to that problem is to show them how fun it is. If your child already likes to read, let them choose a book. If your child doesn’t like reading, try choosing a book that you loved when you were younger. Either way, read it together and talk about it. They may not start a book club, but they will get better at reading and have an easier time with those book reports.
  4. Family play time. Set aside a day that your family can have together each week or bi-weekly. This helps break up the school days. Spend family days watching a movie, playing games together, or going somewhere fun for everyone. It doesn’t have to cost any money, but it does have to include everyone. If you don’t have fun time, your child will grow restless during the year. You can also use this time to reward your child’s hard work. Let them choose the games, the food, or the movies to show them that you appreciate their effort. Try these ideas for parents to find more ways to spend your family time.

5 Halloween Party Games and Activities for Kids

Planning a Halloween party for your kids and their friends doesn’t sound like it should involve much more than candy – it is Halloween after all – but there are a number of games and activities you can plan that are sure to have the kids remembering the party for years to come. Here are some Halloween party games and activities for kids that are guaranteed fun:

1. Pumpkin Bean Bag Toss

Hollow out some pumpkins and place them on one side of the room, on the other side place strips of tape to designate where kids of different ages are to stand (younger get to stand closer, older farther away.) Then make or buy some bean bags and let the kids take turns tossing the bags into the hollowed out pumpkins for candy or prizes.

2. Fishing in the Witches Brew

This game is normally played by making a Sea of water by painting a sheet with some blue water and fish, then making a few simple fishing poles and allowing the kids to ‘go fishing.’ They place the string from the pole over the sheet and someone connects a prize to the line on the other side. To give this a Halloween spin, simply make the ocean a great big cauldron to represent a witches brew, and use a witches broom in place of a fishing pole.

3. Pumpkin Bowling

Everyone has seen the cute tiny pumpkins at the grocery store, a lot of people use them to decorate their house with during Halloween time, use those tiny pumpkins as bowling balls and make some ghost pins out of soda bottles for Halloween Pumpkin Bowling.

4. Cake Walk

Write the numbers 1-10, or 20 if you have more kids, on paper plates and tape them to the ground in a big circle. Have each child stand on a plate then play music and have them walk clockwise to the music. This is especially fun with Halloween music like the Monster Mash. Stop the music then draw a number, the child standing on that number wins a cupcake!

5. Pin the Nose on the Pumpkin

Grab some poster board and your artistic skills! Draw a giant pumpkin then cut use black paper to cut out the eyes, mouth, and nose. Have some tape nearby and blindfold one child at a time and let them try to tape the nose on the pumpkin.

Three Simple Ideas for Parents to Encourage Early STEM Learning

In this technological era, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) skills for lifelong success are increasingly critical. A Wall Street Journal article on this topic states that “While everyone agrees that basic literacy is critical for just about any job, we don’t quite have the same level of appreciation that being STEM literate is increasingly important to qualify for a wide variety of jobs in our information-based knowledge economy.” However, that is beginning to change as STEM skills importance for lifelong success is being more recognized and publicized.

This increasing awareness of STEM skills emphasis may cause parents of young children to take a greater interest in finding ways in which they can support early STEM learning at home.

Here are three ideas for parents for incorporating STEM learning into everyday life:

  1. Kitchen exploration. Helping out in the kitchen is a wonderful occasion for young children to learn STEM skills. Using the computer together to find a new recipe teaches beginner technology skills. Allowing children to measure ingredients and help with food preparation is a great way to introduce them to math skills and help them develop an awareness of how we use math in everyday life.
  2. Nature walks. STEM learning opportunities are abundant in the great outdoors. A nature walk gives you a chance to discuss animals and their habitats with your children. Together, you can count the different habitats you are able to find. With this type of natural exploration, you are encouraging early science, engineering, and math skills.
  3. Building. Building things with your children is a fun way to explore early engineering skills. Try using a variety of materials to make different structures. Some ideas would be to create a fort out of furniture and blankets, make a building out of blocks, or build a card house. Furthermore, you can stimulate technological learning by using the internet together to find additional building ideas.

There are many fun and engaging ways that parents can help support STEM learning for children. Taking advantage of the opportunities presented in day-to-day life is a great place to start.

4 back to school tips for busy parents

Starting a new school year is an exciting and stressful time for families. Here are some back to school tips/thoughts that include ways to stay organized and help your kids move from relaxed summer schedules to more structured school days:

  1. Prep the night before:

    To make the morning routine go a little easier, help kids get their clothes ready the night before. Younger kids might enjoy selecting a “colour of the day”, and building an outfit around one or two colours.

  2. Have a place for everything:

    Find a place on the kitchen counter or in your child’s bedroom for a backpack “in basket.” At the end of the day kids can empty their backpacks and take out any teacher communication, permission slips or other announcements and put them in the basket. This can help you avoid the mad scramble for unsigned permission slips the morning of a big field trip. Encourage them to think of one thing they are looking forward to at school the next day, even something as simple as “Thursday is pizza for lunch!”

  3. Consistency is everything:

    Set aside a consistent quiet time for homework each day. Even on nights when kids have no assignments, plan on an hour before or after dinner when the television is off and cell phones are out of reach. You can establish this hour for your kids at the beginning of the school year so that it’s part of their routine before a big school project comes along

  4. Routine, too:

    Create a bedtime routine that gives your child a moment to look forward to the day ahead. Encourage them to think of one thing they are looking forward to at school the next day, even something as simple as “Thursday is pizza for lunch!”. Taking a moment to do this at the end of the day helps remind kids that the school days are as much fun as the lazy days of summer.

 

3 tips to get your kids learning in the kitchen.

I think we can all agree that STEM education is very important for the success of future generations. However, it’s hard to always find ways to give kids hands-on STEM experiences in order to help them apply their lessons to the real world. Enter: the kitchen.

If you are looking for some ideas for creative parenting that will help introduce your young child to the real-world application of their STEM skills (and get dinner on the table faster!), you need only to step into your kitchen.

The kitchen is a great place to give children the opportunity to explore science and math in a fun, exciting way.

Technology can be used in the searching for recipes, and opportunities for discussing engineering can happen every time you pull out a new appliance in the kitchen.

Here are 3 ways you can expand upon your child’s education in the kitchen:

  1. Measuring:

    From finding the correct measuring cup to weighing items on a food scale, there are so many opportunities to get measuring done in a kitchen. To grow this skill further, have older children convert measurements or double a recipe.

  2. Stirring:

    Stirring ingredients together and watching what happens is like a big science experiment.

    This is especially true if you are cooking from a recipe you have never used or if you are creating a new recipe of your own. Try adding ingredients one at a time to see what they do to the mixture individually. Try melting the butter before adding it. Does that do anything different? Encourage your child to experiment and make new discoveries!

  3. Chemistry:

    All cooking involves chemistry. While your soup is simmering or your cake is baking, discuss the ingredients you put in and throw around ideas to get kids talking about what they believe will happen based on their knowledge of the ingredients. Discuss the chemical reactions between certain ingredients in order to help your child come to their own conclusions.

    Of course, the kitchen is just one of the places you can help your child apply STEM education in their daily lives. By keeping them engaged and excited about learning, you can help improve the lives of the next generation of cooks!

Your kids will never know a world without the internet.

It was internaut day on August 23rd – otherwise known as the world wide web’s 25th anniversary. On this day in 1991, Tim Berners-Lee made the internet available to the world, and none of us would ever be the same.

Of course, this is mostly a good thing; we are more connected than ever before, with more information available at our fingertips. It’s also important to consider, though, that

the current generation of kids growing up now have never lived in a world without the internet.

Take a second to really absorb that information. When many adults think of our childhoods, no matter what age you are, it usually involves some mix of books, bicycles, and boredom.

More than that, if we were curious about something it took time and effort to figure out the answers. Our kids are growing up in a world where they can know almost anything at any time; this changes their problem-solving instincts. We need to manage their screen-time so that they do not become screen-zombies, and teach them positive tech skills so that they know how to navigate this post-internaut-day world.

So, today, we celebrate the internet and all the ways it has improved the lives of people around the world, and made us a globally connected, powerful community. But as they say, with great power comes great responsibility. We have a responsibility to remind our kids how the world worked before 1991, and give them the tools they need to continue having internaut day be something to celebrate.

3 tips for how to watch the Olympics with your kids

The Olympics provide an incredible opportunity for kids to not only cheer on the athletes who have mastered their favourite sports, but also to learn about the world.

Since the opening ceremonies in Rio are just two days away, here are a few activities that are designed to help your kids appreciate not only the competitive excitement of the Games but also to provide them with a cultural and geographical context for what they are watching

1.Mapping the Athletes: 

Find a world map from the local discount store and display it for the duration of the Olympics. Consider having it out during the opening and closing ceremonies, and play a family game; who will be first to find the location of each country as the teams enter the stadium (place a pin or Lego brick on each country that enters)?!

2.Mapping the Medal Count: 

For each medal awarded, have your kids place a coin on the country’s location. You can colour code for Gold (i.e., loonie), Silver (i.e., quarter) and Bronze (i.e., penny).

Your kids will essentially be creating a 3D bar graph that can be updated daily.

As the Olympics progress, this map will serve as a great discussion piece (e.g., Do larger countries earn more medals than smaller countries? Do some continents have a greater medal count than others? Does the southern or northern hemisphere have more medals won? What might this map look like during the Winter Olympics?).

3.One Country Per Day: 

For each day of the Olympics, have your kids select a country that you will “explore” together. Maybe they’ll choose a country that they are already familiar with, or maybe they’ll go for one that they know absolutely nothing about.

Let them locate the country on the map (try to place a thumbtack on all of the countries you research), draw their flag or attempt to create it in Minecraft (see below for my 7-year-old’s example of the English flag during the Euro Cup!)

Olympic Minecrafting

Other activities they can do? The list goes on: listen to the national anthem, learn about the culture of each country they are interested in, determine the population and distance from Rio (Google maps!) and maybe even eat some traditional meals (Chinese takeout, anyone?). Imagine how many interesting facts about countries your kids will learn by the end of the Olympics, giving them a whole new appreciation of the cultural contexts of each athlete.

 

What are some of your family’s favourite Olympic Games Activities?

 

5 STEAM challenges and competitions for kids.

Motivation is often a key element that’s missing from our kids’ projects. Without a specific reason to get something done, we’re basically begging for them to ask the somehow-timeless-question:

“What’s the point of this?”

Whether you’re a teacher, a parent or pretty much anyone who’s ever had a conversation with a kid before, you’ve undoubtedly had to answer that question at some point, tapping into creative reasoning you probably didn’t even know you had. I think I once told a kid who was questioning why I was making him read a book that it was because he would cherish the stories from his childhood – I don’t think he bought it.

Get them excited

A better way of motivating your kids could most definitely be with interesting competitions and contests that give out all kinds of awards. There are so many organizations that issue incredible challenges, with real deadlines, rules and most excitingly – prizes. It’s an awesome way to encourage kids to get excited about what they can accomplish, if they just get to work.

Here are few great competitions you can still enter now, for 2016.

  1. The Science Without Borders Challenge is an international art competition that engages students to promote the needs to preserve, protect and restore the world’s oceans and aquatic resources. It’s open to all kids ages 11-19 years old, and the deadline to apply is April 25th, 2016.
  2. The Space App Challenge is NASA’s annual collaborative hackathon that takes place over 48hrs in April. Anyone can take part – there are 25 different challenges revolving around technology, robotics, outer space and much more. The deadline to apply to host an event in your city is February 24th, 2016 but registration to be an individual contributor will open soon.
  3. Collaboration Nation is a nationwide (U.S) competition that schools and school districts can enter to win up to $50,000 to support their EdTech programs. Applicants must enter a video to demonstrate a cross-departmental collaborative project by April 30th, 2016.
  4. ProjectCSGirls is aimed at encouraging girls to actively use computer science and technology to develop solutions to social problems. The deadline to register is February 15th,2016, so hurry for this one – but projects are only due in April.
  5. The Tech Challenge is a team-based design engineering challenge for kids in grades 4-12, with the aim of inspiring the next generation of Silicon Valley innovators. The competition takes places on April 23 and 24, 2016.

Do you have any others to add to the list? Let us know!