Beating the Summer Vacation Brain Drain

Tonya Perry, Ph.D., assistant professor of curriculum instruction in the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s School of Education and author of the “Supporting Students in a Time of Core Standards” series says; “We need to revisit the purpose of summer. We all think of it as time away from the academic school year, but we should also think of it as a time to revisit our interests, work on our challenges and accelerate our learning.”

Beating the summer vacation brain drain is a top priority for every parent and educator. When kids have too much time away from academics, it is easy to lose any gains made during the school year. The loss is most visible in the subjects of math and science. That is why keeping kids engaged, learning, and academically active during the summer is so critical.

Staying engaged with learning does not necessarily mean having kids attend structured summer school programs. Here are a few ways for kids to stay actively engaged with learning and academics in meaningful and fun ways during the summer months.

Create an action plan: Take the time to reflect upon and review your child’s successes and any academic weaknesses. By using information that you, as a parent, know and communications from the school like report cards and parent/teacher conferences; you can easily come up with a plan. Map out a strategy for success and set weekly milestones. That way, you and your child are working together to build upon existing academic strengths and learn skills to overcome any weaknesses.

Strengthen any academic weaknesses: Summer is a fantastic time to work with your child on any academic weaknesses. Enroll them in programs which strengthen weaknesses, such as a math, science or summer reading program. Give them the right tools by investing in summer reading and writing supplies, or find a book to read together as a family. There are a number of free online resources like – time4learning.com or khanacademy.org. Also, there are many college students or certified school teachers available for tutoring. Your local school or library will have information on available tutors.

Keep it fun: There are a number of experiential learning activities which are fun for everyone involved. The kitchen can be a fantastic classroom for improving math skills. Recipes are a great tool for using fractions, multiplication, or addition. Gardening is another fun way to enhance learning. Kids can get involved in measuring the yard and plotting out sections for planting flowers or vegetables.

Move the needle: Summertime can be an opportunity for parents and children to familiarize themselves with academic standards or prepare for the rigorous testing which occurs during the school year in a more relaxed, fun way. Children love to work on projects, so why not help them come up with a project which relates to what they have already learned during the school year. Or enroll them in a career-exploration camp or thematic camp to move the needle even further on their academic growth.

The summer vacation brain drain is not inevitable when you put your own thinking cap on to find ways to beat it. Healthy families work together to grow and improve. Academics are no exception. Dr. Renee has a number of resources for parents and kids to come up with clever, imaginative, and enjoyable ways to keep learning and growing throughout the summer months and the school year.

Supporting Creative Free Play At Home:

One of the best ways for children to engage in positive physical, mental, and social development is for kids to experience creative free play on a regular basis. It is one of the most important types of imaginative activities for children. Creative free play is expressed when children get to use familiar materials in unique or unusual ways or by engaging in role play and imaginative play. Nothing is more nourishing for a child’s creative spirit and soul than to engage in large chunks of time spontaneously playing. Unfortunately, many parents underestimate the value of creative free play for children. Creative play allows kids to express and cope with their feelings. It also assists children in forming their own unique perspective and individual means of expression. Creative free play is also an excellent opportunity to integrate and include children with disabilities or special needs.

According to a new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP); “free and unstructured play is healthy and – in fact – essential for helping children reach important social, emotional, and cognitive developmental milestones as well as helping them manage stress and become resilient.” The report stresses that our hurried lifestyle and the heavy academic, social, and extracurricular load on children is taking a big toll on families. More balance is needed. The AAP indicates that creative free play protects a child’s emotional development and that a loss of free time in combination with a hurried lifestyle can often be a leading cause of stress, anxiety and may even contribute to depression for many children. So, what is a healthy parent to do?
Fortunately, there are a number of ways for parents to help playtime be enjoyable, productive, and safe. Here are a few suggestions:

Create a child centered play area at home –

• Keep it child-friendly and clean
• Allow kids to leave constructions up for a while – that way, they can come back and engage in new adventures in the world they created
• Avoid over-stimulation – especially for toddlers and infants
• Store play items in a safe and accessible place

Toys that support creative free play –

• Can be used in a variety of ways
• Appeal to more than one age-group
• Can be used with other toys
• Allow children to create the play
• Will stand the test of time and continue to be of interest even as children develop new skills
• Help kids develop further learning skills and a sense of mastery

Encourage balance in the types of play activities –

• Reduce or eliminate screen time (1 to 2 hours per day max is the recommended AAP limit)
• Encourage outdoor play like running, jumping, climbing, and playing chase
• Cut back on time spent in adult-organized activities – kid directed play is important
• Don’t over-schedule for children – self-directed play should be encouraged
• Make an introduction to new activities such as art, music, building or science – then, allow the children to explore on their own.

Creative free play is fun for kids and families. Dr. Renee has many resources on how to support free play and home and the benefits of free play for children – socially, emotionally, and physically. By letting “kids be kids” and allowing them the time and space to exercise their bodies and their imagination, parents are helping kids learn how to regulate or direct themselves, create joyful memories, and have self-confidence. Supporting creative free play at home enhances neurological development and nurtures strong parent-child bonding. There are many ways to incorporate time for free play into your family schedule. So, go ahead, play with your kids!! It’s good for them and you!!

Using Technology Wisely – How Much is Too Much for Families?

As little as eight years ago, Facebook was an idea, twitter was something birds did, and linking in professionally was done at face to face networking events. Oh! How times have changed. In less than a decade, our use of technology has exploded. Everyone has a smartphone, computers now fit in your purse easily, and everyone everywhere is constantly connected to the worldwide Web.

According to the American Association of Pediatricians, parents need to remain aware of what happens in the media or video games their children are using. For example, there are a number of games which involve role-playing, using imagination, and becoming a character to have an adventure. These are all positive qualities and positive skills. Where it becomes negative is when there is gratuitous violence or games are not won by imagination and skill, but through violent activities. Dr. Craig A. Anderson, PhD, distinguished professor of psychology at Iowa State University says research shows that: “ What has emerged is that there are a few studies out there that have looked simultaneously at television violence effects and video game violence effects. And for the most part, those studies tend to show bigger harmful effects of violent video games than of, say, violent television, but there’s not a huge difference between those harmful effects.” In other words, both TV and video games can be equally harmful if not monitored or limited in constructive ways.

Remaining vigilant as a parent seems overwhelming in the offline world, let alone monitoring what goes on online. After all, the most advanced technology many of today’s parent had growing up was a fancy telephone answering machine with a . . . . .cassette to record messages. For today’s parents, playing outside was free of the disruption of phone calls, text messages, emails, alerts, and other digital distractions. Many modern parents wonder if their kids are missing out on important life skills and relationships. So, what is too much technology for families? According to the American Association of Pediatricians more than two hours a day per child is too much.

Different is just . . . . Different

Every generation grows up in a world which is very different to the previous generations. This is not necessarily a “bad” thing. Remember when you were a youngster. Didn’t your parents disapprove of some of the things you did? Music? Talking on the phone? TV time? The clothes you wore? Everyone can easily make a list of the things their parents disapproved of. Everyone can make a list of things their parents disliked. Thinking back, are there any areas where they were off base? Any they were on target? Compare the things you did that bothered your parents with what your children are doing to keep your perspective. After all, choosing your battles wisely is an important part of effective parenting.

What the Research Shows:

Two hours is the recommended maximum time limit for both video and television viewing. In a American Academy of Pediatrics online white paper found at http://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/Pages/Video-Games-Linked-to-Attention-Problems-in-Children.aspx, it clearly states that: “Researchers found children who exceeded the 2 hours per day of screen time recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics were 1.5 to 2 times more likely to be above average in attention problems. Furthermore, early adults showed a similar association, suggesting that early video game exposure may have lasting consequences.”

Parenting Ideas

As much as the tidal wave of technology use can seem overwhelming, it really is not enough, as a parent, to simply give up, give in, and not do anything constructive about a child’s technology use. In addition to limiting television and video time to two hours a day or less, there are a number of instances where it is very healthy and appropriate to set technology rules and boundaries for your household. Here are more parenting ideas:

• Chores and homework must be completed before any video use.
• No cell phones at the family dinner table or between the hours of 5:00 and 7:30.
• No tech in bedrooms after ‘lights out’.
• Getting grounded from technology use or a particular digital device is a valid option – only, if it fits the misdeed.
• Video games, social media, and any tech should be used with time restrictions of a half hour or hour – kids have difficulty regulating their own use, so try setting a timer.
• Don’t be afraid to say ‘NO’ to a new technology device or gadget. That is your job as a parent.

Be a Positive Role Model

If you are spending far too much time on Facebook, or playing games on your tablet, checking emails at all hours, or answering your phone in the middle of dinner, you are modeling the exact behavior you dislike in your children. Try being a role model for good tech behavior by setting limits for yourself and putting aside some time to be completely present and in the moment with your family.

So, when is it all too much?

The bottom line is that there are many individual answers to this question. It all depends on your family values, who you and your children are as people, your child’s ability to balance the various aspects of their life, and your gut instinct on what will work for your family as a healthy boundary and limit. By thinking it through and using some of the parenting ideas from the American Academy of Pediatrics and those listed here, you are well on your way to the right answer which will have the most positive benefit for your family.

Summer Jobs for Tweens

It’s time for that long stretch of summer vacation. Many teens and college age kids have already turned in their applications, had an interview, or are returning to a previous summer job. Or, they may be getting more hours and working full-time at that after-school job. However, there’s another group of kids who also need summer employment or engagement.

What about kids in the tweens group and younger teens who have not turned sixteen yet? What can they do to find money-making and volunteer opportunities? Believe it or not, tweens have a number of options for becoming entrepreneurs and starting their own independent business, working for a variety of companies, or volunteering.

The benefits of a summer job or summer volunteer opportunity for tweens are numerous. Summer jobs can teach kids responsibility and build their self-esteem. Kids of all ages can learn about time management from working a summer job or volunteer opportunity. Jobs are great for developing social skills and practice self-control. In addition, jobs or volunteer opportunities are a great way to learn about future career paths or college areas of study.

So, where you do help your tween child find out about paid or unpaid summer opportunities? Well, to start with, here are the pluses and minuses of paid work versus a volunteer opportunity.

Paid – Obviously, the big plus of a paid tween job is for the child to earn their own pocket money. However, on the minus side, many paid positions are not very flexible about time off for family vacations or hours the kids can work. Be sure to sit down with your tween and discuss the cost/benefit of taking on a summer job for someone else. Of course, if you have a little entrepreneur on your hands, then, depending on how much business the child can generate, you have the best of both worlds – pocket money and scheduling flexibility.

Volunteer – Volunteer opportunities offer many of the benefits being an entrepreneur does – only without the added value of earning money. Volunteering is a great way for kids to get new skills, develop empathy for others, and take on some new responsibilities. If your tween child is interested in animals or becoming a veterinarian, many animal shelters need cage cleaners and dog walkers regularly. As a parent, be sure to go with your child to learn about the volunteer opportunity and find out what exactly the child will be doing, who will be supervising, and how many hours per week or month are required.

Here are a few options for budding entrepreneurs:

Pet Sitting – Summer is the time when many families will have an opportunity to take a vacation. A great option for tweens is to offer to feed fish, dogs, guinea pigs, or cats for interested neighbors, friends, and co-workers.

Babysitting – While we hope no one has an experience like the one depicted in “Adventures in Babysitting,” this tried and true tween job can provide value to both the baby sitter and the children being watched. Babysitting is not just for girls, either. Any babysitter typically has some sort of first aid training, learns how to keep kids entertained and busy, is responsible, and gains empathy.

Cleaning Houses – Typically, kids are a little bit reluctant to clean at home. However, when someone else is paying them to do it, it takes on a whole new level of interest. There may be an elderly neighbor who needs some help scrubbing the kitchen floor. Or, a working family may need someone to come in and dust and vacuum. There’s even an opportunity to provide niche cleaning like cleaning garages or organizing a toy room.

Mowing Lawns – Again, an oldie but goodie. You may even consider allowing your teen or tween to use the family mower (as long as they are the ones paying for the gas) to mow neighborhood lawns. This is a great tween job as it can be done while folks are away at work. They may even want to expand their services offered to weeding yards, setting up lawn sprinklers, or helping in the garden. The good thing about this tween business is that it can even continue on into the Fall where the tween can rake leaves, bag them, and take them out for the trash collectors.

There are a number of excellent options for tweens to work during the summer. Not only does it provide some structure and valuable activities; a summer job can also enhance the pocketbook. Working or volunteering in the summer teaches kids many valuable skills. Not only will they feel validated and gain self-confidence; tweens are also learning valuable life-long skills like time management, how to empathize with others, and using their imagination and innovation to come up with meaningful work. By taking the time to help your tween find paid or voluntary opportunities, you are showing your kids that you care in a way that builds confidence and increases independence.

Successful Summer Fun for Kids with ADHD:

For many parents and kids summer means fun . . . . .and boredom. Every once in a while, everyone needs help finding constructive things to do and meaningful ways to fill those golden days of summer vacation. For kids with ADHD being able to provide meaningful activities and daily structure can be essential.

Many children and adults for that matter too, can get bored very easily. Some children and adults are much better at entertaining themselves than others. Creating a healthy structure for the long summer days is a healthy way to keep everyone happy and busy. There are a number of ways to keep kids with ADHD actively engaged during the summer doldrums. First, though, let’s look at the value of structured ‘play’ as a whole.

The Value of Play
Play is important for all of us, but for children with ADHD it is even more critical. Free play provides benefits like: improving stamina, sharpening coordination, strengthening muscles, and providing a number of other mental and social benefits. . In this interview on ABC, Dr. Renee emphasizes that “free play can stimulate right-brain thinking, improve emotional IQ, and gets children thinking outside of the box.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHPlPU3Ex-8

With sports, games, and make-believe free play, children are learning ways to feel and express emotion, developing valuable social skills like getting along with others, and problem solving. In addition, spending time outdoors has proven benefits for children with ADHD. Spending time on a tree-lined street, in a park, or just out in the backyard helps kids with ADHD feel much more focused than kids who spend hours on the computer or on an asphalt playscape.

Suggestions for Summer Success for Kids with ADHD:

Plan in advance. All children and, particularly, children with attention difficulties often have a need to know what is on the calendar. Many children thrive with and hour-by-hour schedule. When kids know what they will be doing, they are able to relax and focus better.
Play to the child’s strengths. Doing things kids are good at and enjoy is an excellent way to build resilience and self-esteem. When the activities chosen are just challenging enough, it allows kids to stretch their brains and body in a way that builds healthy self-esteem.

More ideas for Summer Fun:

Local Recreation Centers – Find out what sports, games, and activities are available that kids may not have the time or opportunity to participate in during the school year. Contact your local rec center to learn more about programs and times.
Arts and Crafts – Take a trip to any local hobby or craft store and let your child select an age-appropriate craft to work on. This is time to spend together and helps build social skills. Plan the trip and set a time and money limit for success. Brainstorm together what might be purchased during this expedition.
Nature Trails – A planned hike and picnic is an excellent way to spend some quality family time together, burn off some energy, and soak up the natural beauty of any local park. Many state and local parks have special summer programs for kids, so it’s worth looking into what may be available.
Volunteering – Getting kids involved by volunteering at a local residential center or nursing home is a way to spend time together and learn how to give back. Not only will this activity keep kids busy, but it enhances self-esteem greatly because they are doing something for other people.

The two key elements of having a successful summer with your ADHD child are staying focused and staying busy. By using activities which play to your child’s strengths, it is easy to find busy and focused fun activities. Summer is an ideal time for all families to work on lifestyle skills. With a little ingenuity and forethought, summer can be a relaxing time – even for families and kids with ADHD.

Mother’s Day Tips for Blended Families:

Having any major holiday drama-free can sometimes seem challenging for any family, let alone a blended family. Mother’s Day is no exception. There are still some family sensitivities and considerations for enjoying family togetherness, honoring moms and step-moms, and spending time in a respectful, meaningful way. When a blended family is involved, it may require a little extra sensitivity and time management. According to the study titled Post-Separation Parenting Arrangements and Developmental Considerations (J. McIntosh 2010), the most positive blended family relationships occur when the parents have the ability to; “get along sufficiently well; (there is) a business-like working relationship between parents; child-focused arrangements; and a commitment by everyone to make shared care work.” In other words, the best outcome for children living with divorced parents is the existence of co-parenting, cooperation, and flexibility. In real life, though, it is easier said than done. Mother’s day can become difficult when feelings about the relationship may not always be positive. For example consider the biological mother who holds that position, but maybe is not in contact with the child. Or the aunt, who does not have official position of mother, but exhibits the mothering qualities and hence has built that sort of relationship. Here’s where Dr. Renee comes to the rescue with some solid tips about making any holiday (including Mother’s Day) as stress-free and drama-free as possible for blended families.

Dr. Renee suggests recognizing that “mothering”, is a verb and “mother” is a noun. Thus we might very well feel that the person who holds the position of “mother” is not the only one “mothering (the verb)”. Ideally, children will have in their live, adults who do both, hold the position and do the job. However if that is not the case, and you want to remain drama-free here are two rules of thumb to live by:

1. Honoring the position held (i.e. mother, step-mother, friend/aunt/grandma as mom, and even dad as mom); something that feels appropriate to acknowledge the person who holds the position, even if they are not actively doing the job, is a great way to keep drama to a minimum. Yes, there may be angry, hurt feelings here (ex. She does not deserve it), but think of it as a certificate of acknowledgment and a means to taking care of yourself by remaining stress-free

2. Honoring the relationship; when you honor the relationship you are expressing feelings and your appreciation of that person in your life. Here is where you may want to put your thoughtful and heart-felt attention.

Given these two precepts, here are a few creative ideas about how to ease the tensions that can possibly occur around Mother’s day. By keeping these two values in mind and using a little bit of ingenuity coupled with genuine respect for people’s feelings (including your own), there are a number of ways to celebrate. And, if none of these ideas sound appealing or authentic to you and your blended family, then maybe it’s time to put everyone’s collective heads together and come up with a brand new way of celebrating – one that honors either, the position or the relationship, and ideally honors both.

Honoring the position – This can be a simple gesture like giving a card that shows recognition, finding or making a thoughtful gift of recognition, or even a telephone call or face to face interaction of recognition. Simply recognizing the fact that the special person has a role in the blended family life that is important and saying “Thank you,” can be a powerful acknowledgement.
Honoring the relationship – Paying attention in a meaningful way is one way to honor the nurturing relationship itself. Honoring the relationship itself is about the emotional connection that this nurturer provides. One way to show honor is by using eye contact and really listening when the person is talking. Or, participating in a fun family activity like bowling or playing outside in a park (with no cell-phones or technological interruptions) is another way to honor the relationship. Connecting and paying attention all show respect for the relationship itself.

Ideally, there can be a situation where the blended family wants to recognize both the position and the relationship. Here are a couple of ideas:

A Blended Brunch – This is a fab way to get people together in the same place at the same time for Mother’s Day in a blended family. Kids love planning and preparing parties, so, with a little guidance, the entire meal can be prepared by the kids. It’s a fun way to pull together and brunches are one of the easiest group meals to fix, so low-stress. This kind of cooperative activity is a fantastic way of showing honor and respect for both the position and the relationship.

Half and Half, please – Honoring the position and the relationship may require some excellent time management – it’s all worthwhile, though. For example, one Mom or Step-Mom can spend time with the children in the morning until around two in the afternoon. Then the other Mom or Step-Mom can spend time with the children from two o’clock on until the evening. That special time is the perfect way to honor both the position and the relationship in a way that makes children feel valued and loved.

These are just a few of the ideas that can work for a drama-free, hassle-free, mentally healthy Mother’s Day for any family – not just blended ones. The key to celebrating Mother’s Day in a healthy way for blended families is communication and respect. By honoring both the position and the relationship, everyone feels connected and respected. No matter how the day is spent, it truly is an opportunity to put aside any issues and pay homage to everyone who nurtures children in a loving and meaningful way.

5 Tips for those Family-Friendly Road Trips

Summer is racing towards us, which means that many families are gearing up for the proverbial road trip. We all remember the Griswolds driving their way towards ‘Wally World’ like in the old National Lampoon movie. It spoofs the pitfalls and pit stops that can plague any family trip; however, there is some honest truth in what National Lampoon is gently spoofing.

Savvy families know that even though everything may not go smoothly or perfectly according to schedule, the fun of any family road trip is in the adventure itself and actually spending time together. Here are 5 Family-Friendly Road trip tips on how to make the most of this family tradition.

The two biggest issues in many families on a road trip are: bathroom breaks and sibling squabbling. Of course, there are a few others, but these two issues tend to be the biggies.

Bathroom Breaks – Always keep a lookout for a budget chain hotel or where the nearest rest-stops are on the road. Budget chains tend to have convenient highway location, have rest rooms in the lobby area and, in many travelers’ experiences, rest rooms which are cleaner and neater than those in gas stations and fast food restaurants.

Sibling Squabbling – Here is an ingenious solution for the sibling arguments and “she’s looking at me funny” annoyances which occur on family trips. Give the children a little project. Each child gets a role of low-tack (not too sticky) masking tape to build a divider between themselves right down the middle of the back seat. This humorous approach soon had everyone laughing and giggling instead of nudging, niggling, and annoying. Of course, it also helps to have a fully-stocked car games box for kids to find ways to entertain themselves that isn’t electronic or made by Apple.

In addition, here are several more practical tips to make sure everyone can relax on the family vacation and have a good time. Relaxing together and spending time is an important part of growing a healthy family. In addition, when we know that our home is taken care of and we’ve got the destination in mind, the trip is definitely all the better.

Caring for the Car: Be sure and have the car serviced before you go – check all lights, windshield wiper fluid and blades, get an oil change (if necessary), and check the tires. If you don’t already know how – learn how to change a flat tire. Make sure that the car manual is safely in the car and that the vehicle is covered by an effective road-side service plan.

Hungry like the wolf: Passengers who are hungry are cranky passengers. Nuts, dried fruit, mints, and crackers travel well. Pre-pack a cooler with healthy snacks and water. Don’t forget to bring a paring knife and a tablecloth to take advantage of any fresh produce stands along the way.

Making it memorable: Kids love to record their experiences. Have children keep a journal of the Family Road trip (younger children can just draw pictures) or get them each an individual disposable camera to photograph the memories. The whole family can have fun looking at all the photos and even create a family montage of the entire trip.

Any trip is as much about the adventures and silly stories that occur in the car in addition to how much the attraction itself is enjoyed and what families see on vacation. The value of family road trips is in the sharing of the adventures and even coming up with new traditions. Although there are no guarantees of a stress-free family road trip, starting with these destinations and tips for traveling well can help make the journey that much easier.

4 Tips to Quell Test Anxiety:

It’s that time of year when public schools are busy with standardized testing and colleges and universities are in the midst of giving final exams. While every student feels a certain level of anxiety about testing, there are some things that parents can do to help quell test anxiety and reinforce realistic expectations.
According to Thomas J Huberty (2010), “When severe, test anxiety can have significant negative effects on a student’s ability to perform at optimal level.” Recognizing test anxiety for what it is and taking steps to provide support, relaxation techniques, and encouragement to students is easy when you know how. Here are 4 tips to help quell test anxiety:

1. Get enough rest – Be sure to help kids or young adults get eight to ten hours of sleep the night before the test. That way, brains will be alert and energetic enough for the extended periods of focus testing requires.

2. Eat healthy – Everyone should practice healthy nutrition all of time, but it is especially important around exam time. Brain foods include snacks and breakfast that are rich in proteins and carbohydrates. Junk food rich in sugar only provides short bursts of energy with subsequent crashes. Eating healthy means your brain is alert and focused throughout the test.

3. Consider the possibilities – No potential outcome warrants extreme fear in the grand scheme of things. Any scores that are lower than anticipated do not mean that students are a failure or that there will have been no further opportunity for success. Help your student consider the possibility that the results will turn out to be better than anyone expected.

4. Do your best – Help students understand that no one can do anything more than put their best foot forward. Show them how to focus on doing everything in their power to ensure that the worst doesn’t happen. Walk them through visualizing a successful experience and the most positive results. That way, you are both having a dress rehearsal for success.

Kids want to do their best. Parents want to help them do their best but also to guide them to place more emphasis on their EFFORT rather than the grade or score. Dr. Renee says, “Parents give your own grades for effort (did your child study the night before, or break down studying over several days…grade accordingly).” Dr. Renee and the staff at Child and Family focus on test anxiety by teaching children deep breathing techniques they can do to reduce overall stress; especially stress related to test or performance anxiety.
Dr. Renee loves loves loves biodots. These are cool little stickers children can put on their arms or hand in school and manage their anxiety or stress in school. It works like a mood ring and is an indicator when a child needs to access their stress management techniques. Helping kids learn to relax in a playful, fun, and enjoyable way means that they will more easily remember how to use the techniques in an actual testing situation.

On the Child and Family Psychology web site, there are guided imagery exercises with audio downloads for relaxation:
http://www.psychologists4kids.com/downloads-breathing-exercises-progressive-muscle-relaxation.php

Visualization is great too. When parents help students visualize success and support them by providing healthy, nutritious foods and getting adequate rest – you are showing your love and support in ways that can be nothing but positive. Everyone gets a little nervous before taking a test, but with the right support and parental guidance, everyone can get the right result!

5 Secrets for Successful Cooking with Kids

Cooking with kids is a great way to have fun and learn about math and science. When kids are in the kitchen with you, it creates a sense of closeness and also helps in using their math and science skills to do something the entire family can enjoy. These tips should help you with including children in the kitchen more often:

1. Keep it simple: By breaking the cooking project into manageable chunks, kids will stay engaged. Small, easy-to-execute steps are best. For example, measuring and pouring in ingredients, doing some basic mixing, or getting out certain ingredients is easy and fun.
2. Splishy splashy: No matter what age your child is, kids love splashing at the sink. If your child is splashing at the sink, they are safe, happy, engaged — and definitely participating! Plus, your measuring cups and bowls will be very clean.
3. Keep them part of the routine: Part of cooking is cleaning up, which is a useful concept to teach. On the other hand, having a child learn that before helping anyone in the kitchen, they need to wash their hands and bring a step stool or chair over to the counter.
4. Use childproof tools: There are a number of kid-friendly cooking tools. Rubber spatulas and wooden spoons both have easy-to-grip round handles that are just right for pint-size chefs.
5. Hold it steady: Non-skid dishes, bowls, and cutting boards are essential for tiny chefs. If your equipment is not non-skid, anchor it with a damp paper towel. The more you can do to keep it steady, the easier it will be for your young cook to assist.

The secret to successful cooking with kids is to have fun with it. The more you and your children can do together, the closer your family will be. By using your imagination, you can easily come up with ways that children can contribute to the cooking and help you out with this chore.

Ideas for Getting Kids to Be More Active

Anyone who has ever spent any amount of time with children knows how much energy they expend – particularly when let loose on the playground. Children are naturally physically active and love to move it, move it. However, did you know that climbing to the top of a slide or swinging on the monkey bars can help kids start a lifetime habit of staying active. Here are a few things to consider when you are encouraging kids to be and stay active.

Gauge their changing interests: As children grow, they may begin to lose interest in previous favorites like soccer or jump rope. The key to encouraging lifelong physical activity is to get them to stay physically active in new ways, if their interests begin to change. Help them find a replacement sport or activity, if old favorites are losing their luster. Doing simple things like kicking a balloon around together or starting a family four-square tournament is one way to establish healthy patterns together.

Show them the benefits of staying active: Kids may not be aware that when they are exercising regularly, there are many benefits. Physical activity helps build strong muscles and bones, controls weight gain, lowers the risk for diabetes, improves your brainpower, and helps you sleep better. Tell them about the benefits and then show them some things they can do to stay physically fit. After all, healthy, physically active kids have higher self-esteem, do better in school, and are more alert and successful.

Have some fun together!: When anyone, adult or child, enjoys something, they will want to do more of it. Making physical activity a regular part of family fun gets everyone doing it more. Whether it is swimming, basketball, or riding a tricycle – kids thrive from the sense of accomplishment they get from doing something physical and they enjoy the sense of fun. When you do physical things for fun together, you are encouraging positive feelings about these activities. That way, they will want to continue it and have more self-confidence and willingness about trying new ones.

Every child has an individual temperament in terms of physical activity. If you understand this and are active yourself, it will be easy to find the right activities for everyone to get enough exercise. Just like adults, there are children who want to pursue excellence in a competitive sport, while others are happy casually participating. Encouraging kids to stay active in any way – whether it is the school team or just playing ball at home for fun – is essential. It is especially important to help kids remain active and find something physical they want to do even if they are not the top performers.

No matter what their fitness personality is, any child can start the habit. A parent’s positive attitude will help with the child who is reluctant to exercise. By being active yourself and supporting your kids interests, they will come to see that being physically active is a normal, fun part of everyday family life.