The Parent-Teacher-Child Connection: April 2012

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Themed birthday parties

I LOVE themes - themed rooms, themed table decorations, themed quilts, and yes, themed birthday parties.  A theme always seems to bring the occasion, room, table, or quilt together in a way that a non-themed event or item is unable to do.  Therefore, when you plan your child's next birthday party, go beyond the Batman, Superman, My Little Pony, and Barbie parties and get creative.  Here are some ideas:

1. Carnival party - For a backyard event, have carnival-style games like tossing a ball to knock down empty plastic milk jugs, or fishing for ducks in a kiddie pool.  Don't forget to hire that balloon-blowing clown, and have carnival food - hot dogs, cheese fries, and ice cream cones.  I'd forego the cotton candy unless you really like sticky hand prints all over your house when your young guests come in to use the bathroom. 

2. Use a color theme - For example, you might  have a black and white party and ask all the guests to wear either black or white.  Naturally, you'd have oreo cookies with milk and chocolate cake with white icing.  Get the picture?  Did I say picture?  Take black and white photographs of the kids while they play and then give the parents an album of the fun after the event. 

3. Flower Power Party - A throwback to the 1960s will have a party that uses flowers all over everything - plates, napkins, invitations, name tags, etc.  However, for extra fun, don't have those items match, just use flowers of all sorts.  Use leis for prizes for games.  And have an activity where the children decorate a pot and plant their own flowers to take home as the party bag gift.

4. Let's Make Tracks Party - Think of all the things related to tracks - trains, animals, running, search and rescue, etc.  Getting train invitations is easy - think Thomas the train.  But then let your imagination run wild.  Have a search and rescue game where kids have to follow construction paper animal tracks to the prizes.  Have the kids run a race around a "track" in your backyard.  Like I said, get creative!

5. Pirate party - Again, the invitations will be easy to find.  The activities require more creativity.  See how many kids you can cram into a "boat" - otherwise known as a hula hoop!  Play steal the flag - put a flag that looks like a pirate flag in a child's back pants.  He runs around and the other kids try to steal it from him.  When one steals it, play stops until he puts the flag in the back of his pants.  Blow a whistle to start play again.  Everyone gets gold doubloons (chocolate coins) - there are no winners in this game, just plain ole fun!  Then play pin the feathers on the parrot.  Or Parrot down the Lane game - like whisper down the lane.  Play musical treasure chest.   Whoever has the chest in his lap when the music stops gets to pull a prize from it.  This has the added advtange of having the first kid out not throw a fit!  (I had one like that!)

6. Toga party - Give each kid a "toga" - an old sheet cut into quarters for each child.  (Go to a thrift store if you don't have an old sheet and wash it well with bleach!)  Then have "chariot" races - one child is the chariot and the other child holds his ankles.  Have Roman foods - fruits, nuts, grape juice, pastries, etc. 

7. Seashore - If you can't go to the beach for a party, bring the beach to you.  Get some moon sand for each child and have a sculpting time.  When they are done, have them describe what they built, but if you award prizes - give one to each kid for a different category (highest, funniest, first to finish, etc.)  Play a shell game with real shells!  Make a seashore bookmark by cutting out sea-related pictures and laminating them. Give each child a seashore book to go with the bookmark. Give the party trinkets in a bucket rather than a bag.

8. Vehicles - cars, trucks, trains, buses, boats, planes, and bikes.  Assign each child to be a specific vehicle - make them all different.  For example, instead of having one child be a car, one can be a race car while another can be a limo.  The selection of who gets which vehicle should be random.  Then throughout the day, when the kids play games, instead of awarding prizes to the child who collects the most or finishes first, draw a card to see which vehicle really won the game.  Remove the card after the child wins a prize. 

9. Jungle - Play jungle music in the background so you have have realistic sounds of birds and drums throughout the party.  Get jungle themed paper products.  Play jungle animal charades where the kids have to act out and guess different animals found in the jungle. Have jungle animal crackers for a snack or put them on top of each cupcake. For an activity, have the children make animal masks (crowns that look like the animal - I don't like covering children's faces - it's dangerous). 

10. Storybook land - If you think your child and his friends would enjoy this kind of party, have them all read the same book (give it out with the invitation).  Then when they arrive, you can have activities, snacks, and games that revolve around that book.  Again, get creative with which book you choose and how you adapt the party to that theme. 

These are just a few ideas I developed - I'm sure you can come up with some of your own with your children's help.  Everyone is different - celebrate their day!

For more ideas on birthday parties, see these books:
great parties for kids: fabulous and creative ideas for children aged 0-10 and
Hit of the Party: The Complete Planner for Children's Theme Birthday Parties

Happy parenting!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Cutting your baby's fingernails

Nurses in the nursery don't even clip baby's fingernails!  Even back 36 years ago, that was the case.  Baby's fingernails are delicate, but still need to be clipped.  Here is some great advice from my friends at

When parents bring home their newborn infant, it doesn’t take long to notice their tiny little fingernails. They’re not only totally adorable, they grow really fast and they’re incredibly sharp. If those fingernails don’t get trimmed regularly, the baby will inadvertently scratch themselves and you. This may seem like a simple task until you try it for the first time. Babies are notoriously squirmy and those nails are so tiny that clipping them can be a challenge. If you are a new parent or caring for a young infant, here are some tips for clipping a baby’s fingernails.
  1. Baby clippers – The first thing I would recommend is to purchase some special tools. Adult fingernail clippers and scissors are bulky and can end up harming your baby. Use clippers or scissors especially made to care for infants and your task will be much easier.
  2. Press their finger – You want to clip only the nail and not the end of the finger, but this can be difficult. If you press down on the top of the baby’s finger it pulls the skin away from the nail so the fingernail is much easier to get at.
  3. Emery board – Use an emery board to file off the sharp edges of the fingernail. If you do this often enough you can eliminate the clipping process altogether. For parents that are worried about clipping the skin, filing the nail may be a more comfortable way to go.
  4. During feeding – Another tip is to do the fingernail clipping when your baby is relaxed and not squirming too much. During feeding the baby is concentrating on food so it’s a good time to clip the nails.
  5. When sleeping – The best time to clip your baby’s fingernails is when he/she is sleeping. If your baby is sound asleep you can get the nails clipped in a flash with no drama or trauma. When baby awakes the fingernails are all trimmed and he/she didn’t even know it happened.
  6. After a bath – Babies fingernails are softest right after a bath. This is an excellent time to get the clippers out. The only problem is holding a squirmy, wet, slippery baby!
  7. Get help – If you need to clip your baby’s nails when he/she is awake, get some help. One person can hold the baby while the other does the clipping. This is especially helpful as the baby gets older and may start to resist when you want to trim the nails.
  8. Use a diversion – For babies that really start to rebel when it’s time to clip the nails, you may want to create a diversion. Use a favorite toy or food to distract the baby while you get the trimming done.
  9. Don’t over-clip – It can be tempting to trim the nails as far as you can to avoid doing it so often. This can be a big mistake since you risk hurting the baby by nicking the tender skin under the nail. Make sure you clip the white part of the nail but leave a sliver so you don’t over-clip.
  10. Do it often – Since the baby’s fingernails grow so fast, you will need to clip them often. This can be 2 or 3 times a week at first but less often as they grow. Keep an eye on those fingernails and don’t let them get too long between clippings.
Your baby’s toenails also need to be clipped regularly, but not quite as often. Since toenails are thicker, this is definitely easier after a bath. Don’t beat yourself up if you accidentally clip your baby’s skin. This happens and will heal quickly. Press a tissue or cotton ball on the finger until the bleeding stops and don’t use a bandage that the baby could choke on. As with everything else, practice makes perfect. It won’t take long before you’re clipping your baby’s fingernails with ease.

Happy parenting!

Friday, April 6, 2012

5 Ways to Encourage Breakfast

For some reason, the number of hits on my entry of top ten reasons why breakfast is so important has increased exponentially.  Therefore, I figured that it's not enough to say that breakfast is important; parents also need to now how to encourage kids to eat that breakfast.  Here are my recommendations, but you may have others that apply particularly to your own family situation.
  1. Let kids pick out thier own cereal.  I don't mean you should give them free range over the cereal aisle in the grocery store, because they'll surely pick the one with the most sugar and highest cost.  Instead, offer three healthy choices like bran flakes, cheerios, and wheaties.  I've said this many times before, kids love choices, but it's up to the parents to offer guidance with those choices.
  2. Allow plenty of time for dawdling.  If you child gets up at 7:30 and must be at the bus stop by 8:15, that's not enough time for a healthy breakfast.  Get him up at 7:00.  If he balks, remind him that he'll need to go to bed even earlier if he can't get up in enough time to have breakfast and get out on time.  That should be enough motivation for any kid!
  3. Prepare her favorite breakfast in advance and freeze it.  If your child likes pancakes, but you don't have enough time to make them on a school day when you have to get out to work, too,  simply make them on the weekend, and then freeze them in portion sizes. Microwave them until they are warm and serve them with syrup and fruit.  I recommend whole wheat pancakes for a healthier breakfast.
  4. Get creative.  String cheerios on a yarn necklace.  Make yogurt or smoothies into frozen pops.  Kids don't always have to eat the same way every day, even though that's probably easiest for you.
  5. And here's more advice you've heard me give before - ask for the children's input.  Have a discussion about what you can do together so they will eat breakfast more regularly.  A start chart works for some while simply being allowed to determine what they will have for breakfast each day of the week on a calendar might work for another child. 
Happy parenting!

    Wednesday, April 4, 2012

    Rewards work!

    Yesterday, I talked to someone who was having trouble with his fourth grade daughter and her math grades.  He had enrolled her in an after-school enrichment program. And he had taken away her cell phone because he found she was texting more than she was working on her math skills.  The teachers at this enrichment school sent her home with even more homework than her regular school.  The kid was overloaded!  So she began to skim the papers from the pile that came home.  When her father found out that she had been doing this, he asked her why.  I have to hand it to the kid for her honesty - she said because she didn't have time to watch her shows on TV.  OUCH!  I know what was coming next - yep, Dad took away the TV.  Now the poor kid has no TV, no cell phone, no computer (that got taken away before the cell phone) and an overload of work.  Where's the fun in this equation?  Where's the motivation to succeed?

    When I asked Dad what kind of rewards he had set up for her to learn the times table by memory, he looked at me incredulously.  What? No rewards?  He confessed that he never thought to go that route.  I told him that the reward could be as simple as a trip to Rita's when she learned the 6X table, or something that they both work on together when she masters up to 12X. 

    Since that happened just yesterday, Dad hasn't gotten back to me with an update on her progress yet and I won't see him until next week.  Stay tuned, folks, for an update.  I'm sure Dad will see some progress and will have a much happier daughter in the process.

    Remember - rewards whisper success to a child while restrictions scream failure.  When my girls were growing up, I never placed them on restriction, never took away something that they had earned, and I always rewarded positive behavior.  I am proud to say that they have all grown up to be strong, responsible individual who have made very good choices in their lives!

    Happy parenting!

    Monday, April 2, 2012

    Keeping Siblings Hugging not Hating

    As an only child, I have little experience with sibling rivalry.  However, when I became a mom, I got plenty of OJT with three girls within three years of age.  My child development books told me that sibling rivalry is normal and even healthy, teaching children how to argue their point as they got older.  This is probably very true, because I am a horrible arguer and seldom win an argument, backing down every time.  Yes, I'm a wuss.  But I do know it's important to establish close ties with your siblings as they are the closest relatives you will ever have, next to Mom and Dad.  My friends at have posted ways to help siblings appreciate each other more. Most of their advice is just common sense, but sometimes parents don't consider common sense in the discipline equation!

    Sibling rivalry has been going on since the dawn of time; everyone knows the story of Cain and Abel. That story didn’t end well, so parents do their best to discourage animosity among their children. Although it’s perfectly natural for siblings to have disagreements, you want to keep them to a minimum. This is important not only for their development, but for the parents own peace of mind. Here are ten ways to keep siblings hugging more and hating less. 
    1. Start early – Sibling rivalry usually starts as soon as a new brother or sister is born. The older sibling is no longer the sole recipient of their parent’s affection and feels neglected. It’s important at this crucial time to give as much time and attention to your first born as possible and help the children establish a affectionate relationship with each other.
    2. Be fair – Be careful not to play favorites. This can be more difficult than you think, especially if one child is usually the instigator of conflict. Problems will only escalate if the kids don’t think you’re being fair.
    3. Set rules – It’s important to establish the ground rules and communicate them to you children. They need to know that you expect them to get along and to love each other no matter what. Set the rules and be sure to enforce them consistently.
    4. Common activities – Find common activities that both siblings can do together. By getting them to work with each other to accomplish the same goal, you’ll encourage sibling camaraderie instead of rivalry.
    5. Work it out – Sometime you need to step back and let the kids work it out themselves. This is a good idea for minor conflicts and gives them a chance to develop their negotiating skills.
    6. Discourage competition – Try to avoid situations where siblings are competing against each other. Don’t compare their report cards or athletic abilities to each other, but praise each of them for their individual accomplishments. Also encourage them to root for each other.
    7. Encourage affection – Lead by example and let your children know it’s great to show each other affection. Encourage them to give each other hugs and praise them when they’re getting along.
    8. Time apart – Sometimes siblings need a little time apart to enhance their appreciation of each other. Maybe some time alone in separate rooms will be all it takes or perhaps going away to separate summer camps. They might be happy enough to see each other again that they hug spontaneously.
    9. Appreciate their differences – No two children are alike; even identical twins each have their own separate personalities. Be sure to teach your kids to appreciate each others differences. By supporting the other’s strengths and helping to overcome their weaknesses, siblings can learn to be a team instead of rivals.
    10. Patience – Sibling rivalry tends to come and go in stages. Depending on their age difference and other factors, kids will fight like cats and dogs for awhile and then be best buddies as they grow older. Sometimes it just takes some patience.
    No matter what you do, some conflict is inevitable, but you don’t want it to get out of hand. Siblings don’t really hate each other. They’re just struggling to establish their own identity and place in the family. Hopefully your kids will eventually learn that they can count on each other for support and friendship. There are nothing like brothers and sisters to be in each others corner when times are tough. With a little refereeing from their parents, siblings will keep doing more hugging than hating as they grow to be adults.

    And I'll add my own Number 11: Discourage play fighitng like wrestling.  Yes, it may be playing, but it also encourages dominance by one of the siblings, usually the older one. 

    Happy Parenting!
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