Tuesday, May 25, 2010

More Family Fun Vacations

Pocono Mountains, Pennsylvania
The Pocono Mountains region is home to rolling mountain terrain, breathtakingly beautiful waterfalls, and thriving woodlands. Family fare includes a bustling animal park, waterpark, and a candy and pretzel making factory. www.800poconos.com

*Check out the Camelbeach Waterpark, an outdoor park featuring 22 rides, a wave pool and FlowRider. A new find!! Be sure to try out the recently opened Pharaoh's Phortress Family Play Structure. www.camelbeach.com

*See candy being made daily at Callies Candy Kitchen & Pretzel Factory. You can also learn to make your own pretzels! www.calliescandy.com

*Enjoy the Wildlife Adventures Show at Claws-n-Paws Wild Animal Park, a zoo nestled in the woods with over 120 species of wild animals. www.clawsnpaws.com

* Situated in the pristine Northeast Pocono Mountains lake region, Woodloch Resort is like a cruise on land. All-inclusive packages include endless family-oriented activities, entertainment, and amenities. www.woodlock.com

* Find affordable family fun ($8 per person) at the Wayne County Fair. Enjoy live monster truck show, thrill shows, truck, tractor and horse pulls, fireworks, livestock exhibits and more. August 7-August 15. www.waynecountyfair.com


Friday, May 21, 2010

More Family Vacation Ideas

Pennsylvania Dutch Country
In the heart of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, delve into the Amish culture, sample chocolate, and become a scientist. www.padutchcounty.com

*Visit the Amish Village to explore the history and modern customs of the quaint community in a village setting, complete with one-room schoolhouse, blacksmith shop, livestock, and much more. www.theamishvillage.net

*Explore the delicious sights, sounds, smells, and eats of the Central Market, America’s oldest operating farmer’s dating back to the 1730s in downtown Lancaster. www.centralmarketlancaster.com

*Many parents know about Hersheypark, but did you know that ZooAmerica is celebrating its 100th birthday this year? Check out The Ranger Scratch Kids Club and centennial celebration events. www.zooamerica.com

* Make science fun at the Lancaster Science Factory. A new find! Through exhibits, work stations, and mini-labs, children can experiment and create as they learn the principles of science in engineering and technology. www.lancastersciencefactory.org

* Enjoy a 45-minute ride on the Strasburg Rail Road, America’s oldest short-line railroad circa 1832. Across the road is the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, an incredible collection of historic locomotives and vintage railroad cars. Extra-value combo tickets are available for the two properties. www.strasburgrailroad.com www.rrmuseumpa.org

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Great Family Trip Ideas - Baltimore

Looking for a great two-day family getaway? Check out Baltimore, Maryland, a vibrant city known for its historic harbor and white marble steps. www.baltimore.org, and the place where I was born and raised!

*Fort McHenry – Visit the brick fort that inspired Francis Scott Key to pen the Star Spangled Banner. www.baltimore.org/arts-and-culture/fort-mchenry

*Take a walk down memory lane from the late 1700s to present day at Geppi’s Entertainment Museum where pop culture comes to life for children of all ages. Revisit favorite characters from Spiderman to Barbie as they evolved from the familiar icons of yesterday to the heroes of today. www.geppismuseum.com

*Marble Steps – See Baltimore’s trademark rowhouses with white marble steps during a leisurely stroll through the charming neighborhoods in Fell’s Point, Federal Hill and Patterson Park. www.kilduffs.com/Homes.html

*The National Aquarium in Baltimore features stunning exhibits and more than 11,000 aquatic animals. Check out the lauded new addition–4D Immersion Theatre. www.aqua.org

*Seadog III – A New Find!! Experience the thrill and excitement of speedboat tours at the Inner Harbor. Sightseeing and speedboat tours leave from the Inner Harbor, past Fort McHenry and out to the Key Bridge and back. www.seadogcruises.com/Baltimore/home

I’ll have other city ideas over the next few days.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Early Intervention for Speech Issues

There are two children in my three year old class with speech issues. One is a very bright, articulate little girl who garbles her words and uses letter replacements. While her parents think it’s “adorable,” I recommend they take her to a speech therapist. The other child is a soft-spoken boy who is shy about speaking, especially to adults.

At three years old, a speech problem can be adorable. However, there are many things that can start to happen to a child who cannot be understood by others, and they are far from cute. An outspoken child who is forced to repeat herself all the time can get frustrated. At some point, she may find it easier to simply keep her thoughts to herself.

I have also witnessed peers who make fun of a child for pronouncing words incorrectly, especially when their deficiency makes a word sound completely different. For example, the child couldn’t say his “r’s” so when he meant to say “heard” it came out as “hid.” Another, less sensitive child announced that what he said didn’t make any sense. That was embarrassing, even to a three year old.

When my own son was about four, we were told that he’d grow out of his speech deficiencies. Yet, my husband and I felt that he was a sponge at that point in his life, soaking up information everywhere he went. We thought that he would catch on quickly to speech therapy at a young age, and that we could nip the problem in the bud. Our instincts were right.

He had about nine months of speech therapy which he actually enjoyed. They played games during his sessions, and his homework involved blowing bubbles, whistles, and into straws. It was never a chore. He entered kindergarten speaking beautifully. In fourth grade, I noticed that one of his classmates was still struggling with certain sounds. That reaffirmed that our decision to get our son early intervention was the correct one.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Tips to Teach Your Toddler How to Dress Herself

In our preschool class, we wear smocks for messy projects. Our goal by the end of the school year is that every child can put the smock on and take it off herself. Our smocks are old large t-shirts, so it’s just a matter of whether or not the child knows how to get dressed by herself.

This is an important lesson to teach your toddler by about the age of three. The child learns many skills, including how to navigate sleeve holes, buttons, and even which shoe belongs on which foot. But, it also teaches her independence, and a sense of accomplishment that she got dressed by herself. The icing on the cake is the time that is freed up in your morning routine, not having to dress her yourself.

Part of this process involves allowing her to choose her own clothes. That’s not always easy. We had one little girl in our class who wore the same pink dress to school every day for two months. She insisted on wearing it because it was her favorite, and her mother chose not to fight that battle every morning. Eventually, her mother took her shopping and allowed her to pick out several new outfits. That at least expanded her repertoire.

If you want some control over what your child wears, you can offer her choices.
Before she goes to bed at night, let her choose between two outfits that you have selected. Giving her the choice makes her feel more independent, and by doing it the night before, she can take her time in making the decision. But, if your daughter hates to wear dresses, having her choose between two different dresses will probably not fly. You must take her tastes into consideration, as well. As much as you might wish she’d wear a dress, the choices will need to be pants outfits.

The bottom line is that she is capable of dressing herself, and this is an important skill to begin teaching her.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Mean Girls and Rude Boys

I don’t know what happens between ages 3 and 6, but something within some children’s personalities goes horribly wrong. I have taught 3 and 4 year olds who were the sweetest, kindest, most generous souls. I could only imagine glowing futures for these angels who I was proud to teach, observe, and nurture for a short time in their lives.

Flash forward to kindergarten and some of my little angels have drastically changed. The girls are mean, spiteful, and fresh. The boys are just plain rude. They are not nice to each other, and disrespectful to their teachers and parents.

Recently, I witnessed one of my three year old darlings stand up from her seat when another little girl sat next to her. She made a face of disgust and moved to sit with another child instead. I was heartbroken. I flashed forward two short years to when she’s in kindergarten and becomes a mean girl.

I would like to offer words of wisdom of how we can ensure that this doesn’t happen, but I don’t have a proven recipe. In this case, I spoke with the child about what I had witnessed and how she hurt her classmate’s feelings. I explained that she doesn’t have to be friends with everyone, but she has to be kind and respectful to everyone. How would she feel if someone treated her that way?

I urge parents to continue to demonstrate appropriate behaviors that their children can learn from. When your child hears you or a sibling making fun of someone else, she learns how to be mean. When a parent is rude to her spouse or a friend, she is teaching her child how to be rude.

It takes hard work to demonstrate kindness, patience, and understanding of others. You are your child’s primary teacher and you are the on the first line of defense in keeping your little angels sweet throughout their lives. Let’s at least work harder to get past kindergarten.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

How to Get your Kids to Taste Healthy Foods

I'm big on walking the walk...not just talking the talk. Parents must lead by example and it's really hard to know just how to do that. Today, I'll talk about how you can get your kids to try new foods and make healthy choices.

Too often, a child says she doesn’t like something without ever trying it. I feel that parents do a great disservice to their children by not encouraging them to taste an array of foods. Some parents cook one meal for themselves and something else for the children because the kids will only eat chicken fingers, pizza or macaroni and cheese. Once the children get into the habit of demanding such a limited menu, it will be more difficult for them to want to try new things as they get older.

Also, those old standbys are not nearly as healthy as other foods, including fish, poultry that isn’t fried, and fresh fruit and vegetables. If you give your child the same meal that everyone else in the family is enjoying, and you refuse to make a separate dish for just that child, she will realize that she has to try it. Sometimes adding ketchup or another sauce that can change the food’s flavor will make it more appetizing. But, if you tell her she has to eat what everyone else is eating, and then if she refuses, you make her macaroni and cheese anyway, she will learn that she doesn’t have to try new foods.

Every Wednesday in our classroom we have healthy snack day, and one parent brings in a healthy treat for the class. We’ve enjoyed everything from fresh fruit salad to cream cheese on celery, to frozen yogurt. We try very hard to encourage every child to taste whatever the snack is. If they try it and don’t like it, we’ll give them pretzels, which is our old standby that everyone seems to like. But if we offer them two types of snacks and they refuse to taste either, they have made the choice to skip snack that day.

Here’s a story that happened in school. One day we made ‘Stone Soup’ in class after reading the story by the same name. Of course, we skipped the stone, but we put in carrots, onions, potatoes, tomatoes, alphabet noodles and seasoning. Every child tasted the soup, and most of them enjoyed it. When Becky’s mother picked her up that day, she was certain that her daughter had refused to taste the soup. To her surprise, we told her that Becky had eaten every drop. Her mother insisted that Becky would never touch a vegetable at home, and wondered what we did to get her to eat vegetable soup.

Part of the appeal was the fact that Becky helped make the soup. We gave each child a plastic knife and we softened the carrots and potatoes enough that the children were able to cut through them. Every child also had a turn to stir the soup. But Becky also knew that we expected her to at least taste the soup. As the other children around her were enjoying it, she realized that it was okay to like it.

If you offer your child the foods that the rest of your family is eating, she has two choices – she can taste them, or she can be hungry. At some point, her hunger will force her to find something on the table that she’s willing to eat. But, if you give in and make mac and cheese and chicken nuggets for every meal, your child will never learn to eat new and healthy foods.