Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Stress Relief for Parents and Teachers

Spending time with kids is fun, but it can also be stressful. Here are ten ways you can feel better and stay calm.

1. Coloring
Coloring with kids, or alone, is a great way to calm your body and mind. Coloring books for adults have become very popular.

2. Aromatherapy
Fragrances can relax or invigorate. Keeping a scented candle at your desk or wearing a dot of lavender oil can help you feel mellow and in control.

3. Staying Tidy & Organized
Searching for lost items and frantically checking schedules and clocks adds stress. Keep things where they belong and follow a routine.

4. Realistic Expectations
Kids don't listen, they are messy, and they sometimes cry a lot. Don't expect everything to be perfect and save yourself a lot of stress.

5. Acupressure & Massage
Tension builds up in your body, sometimes causing headaches or other pain. Finding just the right spot to press or rub can make a big difference.

6. Jacuzzi
Having a soak in hot, bubbly water can be an almost miraculous way to melt away the stresses of the day. Find a hot tub or spa, or just enjoy a nice bath.

7. Accepting Good Enough
Things will not always be ideal. That's okay. Take a deep breath and let it be.

8. Get A Hobby
Anything you enjoy doing can help with stress. Creative and athletic activities are especially great for stress management.

9. Meditation
Clearing your mind of all your day to day worries is like taking a tiny vacation. The more you try it, the better it works.

10. Sing & Dance
When you are starting to feel irritated and frustrated, drop everything and do a little song and dance. It can instantly change your mood, and it will often get the kids back on track, as well.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Water Play

Kids love to splash and play in the water, especially during hot weather.  But you can't always go to the beach or pool everyday.  There are many other fun ways you can let your kids play with water.

Water Tables

Water tables are a great set up for kids around ages 1-6.

If you don't have a water table, it is very simple to improvise one.  Any large, shallow container supported on a low, sturdy surface will work. An under bed storage bin, dishpan, roasting pan, or mixing bowl can hold the water. A coffee table covered with a plastic tablecloth, a garden bench, even a lawn chair or milk crate can hold the water at the right height. 

To keep the water table fun, keep adding new things! Here are some ideas:
-Kids like to play with kitchen things like cups, measuring cups, funnels, sponges, ladles, and cream or syrup pitchers.
-Rubber duckies, boats, and other bath toys are always fun.
-Small plastic toys of various types enjoy having water adventures. Dinosaurs, zoo and farm animals, cars, dolls, and anything fish or ocean related can get good use at a water table.
-Tea sets and other food and cooking toys are popular for water fun.

More Ideas

Sprinklers are a childhood classic. Let your kids run around in the spray while you water the lawn.

Let children use a watering can or small bucket to water plants.

You can use water blasters, spray bottles, and water balloons in all sorts of races, games, and contests. Kids love to soak each other while dashing around and shrieking.

With a pail of water and a paintbrush, children will have a great time painting sidewalks, fences, and patio furniture.

Kiddie pools are cheap and come in all sorts of sizes and price ranges. Any other kind of container, such as a drink tub or storage bin, can be used for splashing and playing. To keep it interesting and appealing, use some of the water table suggestions above. Fishing games, floating ring toss, and wind-up toys are especially fun in kiddie pools.

Have a great summer!

Family Matinee

20 Favorite Films

Choosing a movie that is appropriate and enjoyable to watch with kids can be difficult. Here are some great videos for watching together, for a range of ages and tastes.

1. Planet Earth
2. Life
These nature documentary series by David Attenborough are very educational and gorgeously filmed. They would be perfect for kids and adults of all ages who are fascinated by animals.

Offbeat Animation
3. A Cat In Paris-  This slightly spooky mystery adventure may be best for kids aged 6-7 or older.
4. The Iron Giant-  A wonderful movie based on the 1968 novel The Iron Man: A Children's story In Five Nights  by Ted Hughes.

TV Shows & Short Films
5. Scholastic Videos- Any of the several animated storybook collections are a good choice for preschool and grade school aged kids.
6. Busytown Mysteries- This TV series is based on Richard Scarry's books.
7. Berenstain Bears- The 1980s series and the newer episodes are excellent adaptations of the classic children's books.
8. Clifford's Puppy Days
9. Clifford
Both cartoon series based on Emily Elizabeth's adventures with the big red dog stories by Norman Bridwell are gentle and slow paced, especially appealing for children under five.
10. Peep and the Big Wide World- This simple, cute cartoon follows some little bird friends and their discoveries about the natural world. Peep has been a consistent favorite of my daughter from age 2 or 3 through 9.
11. Tinga Tinga Tales- Short, beautiful animated ancient African myths make a good choice for most kids.

12. Sesame Street Old School- The original and classic collections are remarkably educational and entertaining, with sophisticated animation and direct academic instruction for kids from infants through first or second grade.
13. Harvey-  A 1950 black and white movie starring Jimmy Stewart, whose best friend is a giant invisible rabbit, was a surprising favorite of my preschool class last year. It's an especially great pick to watch with grandparents.
14. E.T.-  This 1980s movie about some kids who make friends with an alien proves to be timeless. Watch it again with some kids or family and friends of all ages.
15. Mary Poppins- The magical, musical nanny continues to fascinate young children today.
16. Herbie- The funny adventures of a Volkswagen Beetle were especially hilarious to my recent preschool class.

Studio Ghibli
Japanese director and animator Hayao Miyazaki has created many, many excellent films for audiences ranging from young children through adults. The following four movies are appropriate for younger children and are favorites of my whole family.
17. Panda! Go, Panda!  This darling, short movie features a little girl who stays home alone with some panda bears who have escaped from the zoo.
18. Ponyo- a fairy tale about a fish who longs to become a real girl.
19. Kiki's Delivery Service- A young witch sets off with her broomstick and talking cat to make her own way in the world.
20. My Neighbor Totoro- The amazing artwork in this rich, exquisite film combine with magical and fantastic elements to create a masterpiece about the mysteries of childhood. One of my absolute favorite movies.

Turn on the air conditioner, turn off the lights, pour some lemonade and grab some popcorn! Enjoy your Family Matinee!

For specific information about each video from this list, including images, reviews, and purchases, please visit my Amazon list.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

10 Summer Fun Ideas

The weather is warm, the days are long, and the kids are out of school. Have some fun together with these 10 great summer fun ideas.

1. Swimming Pool

Visit a neighbor or friend with a private pool or in a large apartment complex if you don't have a nice public neighborhood pool nearby. Or you could join a club like the Elks or a fitness gym to gain access to their swimming facilities.

2. Natural Swimming and Wading

Find a beach, stream, creek, pond or lake for swimming, exploring, and splashing.

3. Library

In addition to lending books, ebooks, audiobooks, and films, many public libraries have wonderful programs for children and families including dramatic storytelling and puppet shows.

4.  Movie Matinee

Instead of waiting until evening to enjoy a family movie night, watch a quality film together during the morning or afternoon hours, when the weather is hottest. Make it an event with popcorn and lemonade. (See my suggested movies and videos for families and small children.)

5. Garden

Use a small patch of ground or a few flowerpots to do a small gardening project together. Try
sprouting radishes from seeds, or buy small herb, vegetable, or flower plants from a garden center.

6. Water Play

Kids love to play with water. If you don't have a pool or sprinklers, even a bucket or mixing bowl will do. Add a few rubber duckies or measuring cups for extra fun. (See my water play post about more ideas for fun easy ways to let your kids play with water.)

7. Sandbox

You can easily make a small space for playing in the sand with your kids using an old kiddie pool or
plastic storage container. Add a shovel and pail, a sifter and a few other small toys.

8. Art Box

Put together a special collection of art supplies and materials to use creatively. Paper, crayons, markers and glue are the basics. Also include googly eyes, glitter, stamps, stencils, or stickers. Additionally, toss in a few specialty art kids like a beaded bracelet set or some shrinky-dinks.

9. Camping

Sometimes the expenses or time constraints make an extended camping trip impossible. For kids, a day trip and picnic or a backyard camp out can be just as exciting and memorable. Have a campfire, set up a tent, and roast some marshmallows.

10. Treehouse

Build a tree house or fort to help create the summer magic of childhood. Consider converting an old shed or storage space for kids to hide out, whisper secrets, and tell ghost stories.