Friday, April 30, 2010

Teaching Your Children How to do Basic Chores at Home

I’ve been asked a lot about how to teach kids to do jobs at home, so I’m rerunning this post.
I had no idea how many parents don't teach their children the most basic household chores. I'm at my son's soccer tournament, a place where there is so much downtime that his teammates' parents become best temporary friends rather quickly. These are all terrific people....well educated, hard working, loving parents. Yet, when we got into the discussion of our kids doing their own laundry, most admitted that their 15 and 16 year olds were clueless in this area.

That was surprising to me. Kids can and should learn how to do basic chores, including the laundry, making their beds, setting the table, taking out the trash, mowing the lawn, and even cooking an occassional meal. Eventually they will go off to college and get their own homes, and this stuff won't just come through osmosis.

How hard is doing laundry? You only need to show them how to separate out clothes the way you like to, find the appropriate settings, turn on the water and pour in the soap. There are many advantages to having your children helping out with the laundry....not only will it be an important lifelong skill, but when they become teenagers who insist that their "perfect" jeans or special new t-shirt mustn't shrink, they can take responsibility for hanging it up instead of throwing it in the dryer.

Parents need to teach their children how to survive on their own. There's enough stress for a kid when he goes away to school for the first time, learning how to care for himself shouldn't be a new experience.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Tips to Prepare Your Toddler for a New Sibling

You are about to add a new sibling to your growing family. It doesn’t matter how many kids you already have, the new arrival will shake things up. Consider these tips to help make the changes a positive experience for everyone.

1. Pay attention to timing. Choosing when to announce your great news to your other kids depends on each child’s age. If you aren’t showing yet, your two year old won’t understand what you are trying to explain. In addition, nine months is practically half his lifetime and much too long to know about your impending pregnancy. Once you are about five months along, he can actually see your bulge where the baby is and that’s enough time for him to get used to the news.

2. Make sure that you include other siblings in your pregnancy. When the baby kicks, let your children feel it. This will point out that a real person is growing inside you. Encourage your kids to be involved in setting up the nursery and thinking up baby names. It’s vital that they feel part of the process.

3. Find ways to make your other kids feel important. Choose times to spend with each child individually before the baby arrives, to let each one know he is special. Be sure the older sibling understands how much you will rely on his help when the baby is born. The little baby will need to learn so much from his big brother and you know that he will be a caring, loving older brother.

4. When it’s time to hand things down from an older sibling to the new baby, be sure to ask the older child’s permission. Let’s start with his crib. Talk to your toddler about how excited you are that he is now old enough to leave the crib for a new big boy bed. Encourage him to take ownership of his new bed, by helping you choose sheets, pillows and blankets. He should be out of the crib at least a full month before the baby arrives. By then, when he’s used to his new bed, you can ask him if the new baby can now sleep in his old crib. It’s important that you make him feel important and special to be sharing his bed with his new sibling.

5. Remember to find time for your other kids after the baby is born. Naturally, the focus will be on the new arrival, but it’s important to remind your older children that they are important to you and you appreciate their help during this busy time. Many times, company will visit with gifts for the new baby, and often for the siblings, too. If they forget the other kids, it’s a good idea to have a stash of small things that you can bring out for them to remind them that they are special. Wait until the company leaves, and then offer the kids a coloring book, puzzle or something similar as a thank you for being so understanding. When the baby sleeps, try to spend some quality time with the other kids.

6. Be sure to encourage all of your kids to enjoy and appreciate one another. The more your family grows, the more important it will be that they all get along and truly love one another. Sibling rivalry will happen, but encourage the kids to work as a team, instead of feeling like they must complete for your time and attention.

Congratulations on your new bundle of joy! It’s only natural that when the new baby is born, you will be tired and your house will be chaotic. Preparation will make the transition smoother for everyone.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Encourage the Three R’s Through Fun

During the summer, nobody wants to be tied to reading lists or worksheets. Yet, we need to keep our kids’ minds sharp. Consider these easy, relaxing tips in your everyday life.

• Let your children read things other than books, including comic strips, cereal boxes, and magazines.
• Choose library books based on your child’s interests.
• Be sure kids are reading at their appropriate reading level so they don’t get frustrated.
• Have them write letters, or e-mails, to Grandma or another relative or friend, sharing some of their summer experiences.
• Let the kids write out the week’s shopping list for the grocery store.
• Encourage them to keep a private journal where they can write about whatever they want.
• Let your kids help you cook and bake, allowing them to read the recipe and do the measuring.
• Have the kids count out money at the store, and figure out what the change will be.
• Give them a budget and let them do the shopping.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Fun Family Way to Keep Kids’ Minds Sharp this Summer

It may seem like the minute your kids walk out the school doors for summer recess, their brains begin to drain. Not so, say many educators and parents, who believe that summer family experiences can be very educational. It turns out the family experiences you enjoy during the summer are actually great tools to keep your kids’ brains sharp.

Grace Wadell, the mother of four kids aged six to fifteen in the Radnor PA school system, is a firm believer in creating a summer to-do list. “On the first day of summer break we all sit down at the kitchen table and I ask them to give me a list of everything they want to do this summer,” she explains.

That list is varied given the kids’ range in ages and interests, and might include things like making ice cream from scratch, going to the shore, or visiting a museum. Together they choose the ones they want to do, and turn them into enjoyable learning experiences.

Wadell uses each experience as the centerpiece for learning more about a particular subject. For example, one summer the family visited the Franklin Institute, so she enrolled them into a science camp to tie in with the trip. She also took them to the library where they checked out books about science-related subjects.

Field Trips
Unfortunately, school field trips are often the first thing to go when budgets are cut. Summer provides the perfect opportunity for families to visit the zoo, museums, and parks. Even everyday errands to the grocery store and dry cleaner can be educational and fun. There are dozens of fun, affordable, and educational day trip opportunities in Philadelphia. Check out and for suggestions.

“Think of the common experiences that we have as parents that our children can benefit from,” suggests Valarie Lee, Assistant Professor of Reading at Rowan University. “If you’re going to the hardware store or laundromat, think of all the opportunities there are for measuring, sorting, and counting.”

Take the things you do every day and view them from the perspective of a child. “How can I help my child understand how to make a prediction from this, how to ask questions, how to use math skills and literacy skills,” says Lee. “Use those everyday experiences that we take for granted.”

Lee points out that in school, language is an area where many students suffer, so the more parents can talk to your children about what you’re doing, the better. For example, in the grocery store, have your child read the word milk off the shopping list and then let her find the word on the carton. Once the milk is in the cart, she can scratch it off the list.

Summer is also a great time to encourage your kids to volunteer and give back to the community. According to Carolyn Zogby, Director of Curriculum and Instruction for the Red Clay Consolidated School District, “Community service contributes to healthy development.”

For suggestions on things your kids can do to volunteer, visit

Monday, April 12, 2010

Bike Helmet Laws and Why Kids Hate to Wear Bike Helmets

Here we go again…another Spring and another battle with my kids to wear bike helmets. While my oldest two are in college where I can’t nag them or keep tabs, my 16 year old is still living with me. He swears he’s the only kid he knows who has to wear a helmet and he admits that he hardly rides his bike because he hates to be embarrassed by the helmet.

What I don’t understand is why I’m the only mother in town who makes her kids wear a helmet. If they were all wearing them, they wouldn’t hate them. They only refuse because it falls so low on the “cool meter” that it’s completely embarrassing.

Most states enforce bike helmet laws for kids under 14 years old, but not for teenagers. Check out for the law in your state. Yet, to me, every bike rider should wear a helmet and age shouldn’t matter. I know several adults who have had biking accidents. Fortunately, by the time we’re adults we don’t care how cool we look, just how safe we are.

My kids were never allowed to ride without a helmet at any age, a family rule that caused much fighting during their formative teenage years. My one son was even pulled over by the police on several occasions, and rewarded with a coupon for a free ice cream cone because he was wearing a helmet. How devastating for a 14 year old! His friends didn't have to wear a helmet and he was mortified to be the only one who did.

Here are a few statistics from the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute:
The "typical" bicyclist killed on our roads is a sober male over 16 not wearing a helmet riding on a major road between intersections in an urban area on a summer evening when hit by a car.

About 540,000 bicyclists visit emergency rooms with injuries every year. Of those, about 67,000 have head injuries, and 27,000 have injuries serious enough to be hospitalized.

Non-helmeted riders are 14 times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than helmeted riders.

If your child learns to ride a bike and part of that lesson includes the fact that she must wear a helmet, she will recognize that this is part of bike riding forever. Being cool is not nearly enough of a trade-off compared to the risks of not wearing a helmet.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Tips for Choosing Summer Reading Books

For many families, those three words, Back to School, bring dread and despair. If your kids are past their preschool years, there's a good chance their summer reading book is still in the Borders bag and the packet of work they need to turn in next September is in a corner somewhere collecting dust. No worries.

Experts say that summer is all about family experiences that enrich children's lives and bring a broader understanding of the world around them. Visits to the library, the park, and even a ballgame provide shared experiences that are invaluable. Tomorrow's blog will talk more about that, but today I want to focus on summer reading, and share advice from Farrah Koonce, Principal of the Clara Barton Elementary School in Cherry Hill.

She suggests that there are many ways to keep students from regressing over the summer. “They should engage in some academic stimulation, whether it’s reading, writing, or mathematics,” explains Dr. Koonce. “They need to just be doing something to keep their brains active. Doing something to stimulate their brain is critical.”
For example, visit the library and help your child independently choose a book that interests her. Violeta Katsikis, Instructional Support Specialist at Clara Barton Elementary School, provides guidelines to help kids choose appropriate books. Ask yourself these questions. If the answer is YES, this book is probably a JUST – RIGHT book for you. JUST – RIGHT books help you learn the MOST because you can figure out most of the words and you can UNDERSTAND what’s going on in the book.

1. Is this an interesting book that you want to read?
2. Do you know the author or anything about the topic?
3. Can you tell another person what is happening in the story or
something you have learned?
4. Do you sometimes need to reread a part to understand it?
5. Are there just a few (2 or 3) words per page that you do not know?
6. When you read are most places smooth and some choppy?

Hopefully, you parents are reading, too. When kids see that their parents have a love for reading, it will make them that much more interested in trying it for themselves. And, they don't need to read novels. Experts agree that reading anything is good, be it comic books, magazines, or even the cereal box. It's amazing how much vocabulary kids can pick up by reading just about anything.

When my kids were younger, I often read their summer reading books. Many of them were wonderful, and it gave us a chance to discuss the book together.

Check out the August issue of SJ Magazine for more tips on things you can do with your kids this summer to make school even more successful next fall. The most important thing is to spend time doing activities together.

Monday, April 5, 2010

A Miracle Field of Dreams

The crack of the bat, cheers from the stands, and smell of hotdogs are obvious signs that a baseball game is taking place. It’s not until you notice a young boy rounding first base in his wheelchair that you realize this isn’t any ordinary little league game. As its name implies, this field truly is a miracle for hundreds of athletes with mental and/or physical challenges who can now enjoy America’s favorite pastime.

For most of our kids, playing sports is an important part of life, not just for them but for the whole family. For children with physical or mental disabilities, it is often difficult to take advantage of this wonderful outlet. Fortunately, for kids in one of the 200 towns in the US and Puerto Rico with a Miracle League, playing baseball is easy, and lots of fun.

“It’s really about giving all kids a chance to enjoy the camaraderie that comes from playing on a team when they’re playing sports,” explains Senator Stephen M. Sweeney, who spearheaded a field in Gloucester County, NJ. “These kids get the thrill, like any other kid, of getting to hit a ball and round the bases, whether it’s someone pushing you in a wheelchair, or using a walker, it’s just having fun.”

The Miracle League Organization which believes that every child deserves a chance to play baseball, including those with physical disabilities. The kids wear the uniforms of Major League Baseball teams and use special bats and balls. The field has its own scoreboard and the players get to hear their names announced. Buddies are available to assist players when necessary.

“It’s a nice mesh with traditional Little League,” says Fred Keating, Director of Education and Disability Services, Gloucester County. “These are children who would have never had the opportunity to play ball. They watch it on TV, maybe go to a Phillies game, talk about it at home and may watch a brother or sister play. But they wouldn’t have gotten the opportunity to put on a glove and a jersey, go on the field and have people cheer them.”

Adds Senator Sweeney, “It’s a real baseball league. These kids go to practice, they learn how to hit and throw and catch. They’ve been given an opportunity to be in a league of their own with a special field to play on.”

JJ Golick, an 11 year old slugger from Waterford, has been diagnosed with Asperger’s Disease and other related issues. He tried playing baseball in regular Little League, but found it too challenging. “I love baseball,” says the first baseman. “I love being able to get another chance to play. In this league we have the buddies that pitch great, and there’s no pressure. I love to hit home runs!”

Adds his mother, Denise, “This field means everything. My son, having special needs, wasn’t capable of getting the help that he would need on the baseball field. For him to be able to play a game that he absolutely loves has been amazing. It was truly inspiring to see the smile on his face as he hit the ball over the fence. It really brought him to life and brought back a love of sports for him that had kind of died here in town because he couldn’t play.”
The facility is 14,900 square feet, including the dugouts. The field is an asphalt playing surface made to Little League dimensions, and allows for handicapped accessibility. It is covered with a rubberized surface that provides color to the field, is durable, and offers a degree of safety.

Miracle Field is being enjoyed year-round by other kids in addition to the Miracle League, including the school kids at Bankbridge Elementary School who use it during the day to accommodate Adaptive Physical Education, therapy, and recreation. Camden County recently made a financial contribution to partner in the project, and will bring in other teams to compete. The field is also open to the community and will be available to host Special Olympics events.

“Watching smiles on children and their parents is just a wonderful feeling,” says Senator Sweeney. “It’s something I’m really proud of.”