The Parent-Teacher-Child Connection: June 2012

Monday, June 25, 2012

When your child has to stay overnight in the hospital

No one wants their child to have to stay in a hospital, but unfortunately from time to time the need to do so may arise. When the time does come, how do you comfort your child and how can you make their stay more pleasant? Check out these ideas for making your child’s hospital stay a bit easier brought to you by my friends at
  1. Pictures from home: Bring several pictures from home. If your child doesn’t normally have pictures in her room, create some. Does your family have a pet? Take a picture of the family pet, of mom and dad, and maybe of grandma and grandpa too. Bring pictures of whoever you think your child will miss seeing. You can even bring in a scrapbook for them to look at when they are sad.
  2. Toys to play with: One of the worst things for an active child is to be stuck in a bed with nothing to do. There is the television, but how long can he watch that without going out of his mind? Bring toys that work well in a confined space, like matchbox cars, action figures, and puzzles. Playing card games with him when he is up to it can also be fun.
  3. Music to listen to: Bring things that appeal to all of his senses, like some music for him to listen to. If he doesn’t have a private room, just bring in a small MP3 player with headphones. Soothing music will calm him and help him to improve faster. Most libraries even have books that can be downloaded to MP3’s now as well.
  4. Cards from friends: Kids miss their friends when they are stuck in the hospital. It’s a nice surprise to bring in cards made by classmates or other friends from the neighborhood to cheer him up.
  5. Narrated book: Sometimes mom or dad isn’t able to be at the hospital with the child all of the time. At these times, it’s nice to have a book to listen to that plays mom or dad reading the story. Many card and gift stores sell books with recorders in them. This will also help replicate the feeling of home.
  6. Blanket from home: Whether you are a child or an adult, it’s nice to have something from home that is familiar. Bringing in a blanket from home that he can cuddle up with will help him relax and not feel like everything is so strange. The familiar smell will also comfort him.
  7. Favorite stuffed toy: Different than other toys, having a favorite stuffed toy to hug during scary times is essential when staying in the hospital. Often the staff will let the child bring a stuffed toy when they need to be taken for tests. During these times they can end up being left alone for periods of time, and having a stuffed toy to hug can help alleviate the stress.
  8. Plenty of light: Hospitals can be scary and making sure that they have plenty of natural light may help her to feel better and less scared. If putting the child by a window is not an option, with permission you may be able to bring in a natural light lamp to bring a little of the outside indoors. At night you can turn on a night light for your child.
  9. Oil diffuser: If you’ve ever been in a hospital you will know that they smell like cleaners and antiseptic for obvious reasons. While necessary, these smells don’t exactly comfort a child, so having a small air freshener or an oil diffuser will help his room to smell better and more like home.
  10. Colorful balloons: Nothing brightens a child’s day like colorful balloons. Flowers are nice, but kids really love balloons. Most hospitals will have a gift shop where you can buy balloons. Having a nice bunch in a spot he can see will brighten an otherwise sterile white room and should cheer him up.
Let’s face it; the hospital is never going to be just like home. But anything you can do to bring bits of home into the hospital will help make your child’s stay a little easier. According to a report by NHS (National Health Service), patients who are happy and more comfortable do better and there is a lower rate of readmissions.

Happy Parenting!  (and I hope you never need this information!) 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

10 Foods from the Grill your Kids will LOVE

Below are fun variations on the barbecue theme that are kid friendly.  They come from my friends at Mangia!

While just about every adult loves a good cookout, grilling can be hit or miss with the kids. If you’ll be grilling for the family, you may want to stick to serving foods that are attractive to adults and kids alike, that way you can ensure that everyone ends dinner with a full belly. The next time you’re grilling, consider these kid-friendly grill favorites.
  1. Cheesy corn on the cob: Peel back the husks and remove the silks. Using kitchen twine, tie the husks together to make a handle to help little hands hold onto the corn. This also helps keep the husks from burning. Soak corn in cold salted water for about 10 minutes. Drain the corn and place it on the grill. Close the lid and let cook for 15 minutes, turning it occasionally. The grill should be set to medium heat. Once the corn is golden brown, remove it from grill and brush with melted butter, chili powder and grated Parmesan cheese.
  2. Kabobs: Kids love nothing better than food on a stick; take corn dogs, Popsicles, and lollipops as a testament to this fact. For this reason, kabobs are a popular kid-friendly grilling option. You can include the kids when threading the food onto the kabobs and they will like them even better because they helped to make them. Remember, your kabob options are endless. You can make anything from peppers, onions, and chicken to pineapple, tomatoes, and ham, both of which are sure to be a hit.
  3. Sausage on a stick: Make your own sausage on a stick. Try using regular polish sausages or the sausages with cheese on the inside of them. Next, thread them on soaked wooden skewers or metal skewers lengthwise, as if it was a corn dog. Place them on the grill. These sausages on a stick are fun to eat and much easier to manage than a bulky bun loaded with toppings.
  4. Peaches: If your kids like peaches, and even if they don’t, you have to try this sweet grilled variation of them. Cut the peach in half and remove the pit. Then dip the peach half into granulated sugar and place it on an oiled grill. Keep the heat on the low side because it doesn’t take long for these beauties to warm through and get some grill marks on them. Pull them off the grill, add a scoop of vanilla ice cream and you have tasty treat.
  5. Sliders: These small size burgers are easier to hold, and there’s less to eat so they work well for little hands and stomachs. Take 2lbs. of hamburger and mix in salt and pepper to taste. Form your sliders using a 2” biscuit cutter. You should be able to get 12 sliders from 2lbs of meat. Press your thumb into the middle of each slider and chill patties for about an hour. Place some party rolls, split side down on the grill. Grill for about 2 minutes keeping an eye on them. Take them off, butter them and tent them with foil. Put the sliders on the grill and cook for about 3 minutes per side. Take the patties off the grill and slide them on the toasted buns. Add any toppings your kids like.
  6. Pizza: What kid doesn’t like pizza? Use your own pizza dough recipe or buy some pre-made dough. Cut the dough into four equal pieces. Have the kids pat their dough into a rough circle while you preheat the grill on high. Throw some flour on the counter to make it easier for the kids to press out their dough. Add the rounds to a baking sheet covered in a dusting of corn meal. Take your tongs and a clean towel dipped in oil and oil the grill. Then carry the dough rounds out and put the pizzas on the oiled grill. After they cook for 2 minutes, flip the pizzas over and have the kids add their toppings. Pizza sauce, pepperoni, mozzarella cheese and any other favorite toppings can be added to create the ideal pizza. Close the lid and continue to cook the pizza for another 2-3 minutes. Remove from the grill and let it sit for about 5 minutes before serving.
  7. Grilled potatoes: If you go camping you’ve probably heard of this recipe. Take 3 large baking potatoes and cut them first in half and then into 1” slices. Toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, paprika and garlic powder. Preheat the grill to medium-high and then add a layer of sliced potatoes onto 2 layers of heavy duty foil that’s about 20” square. Fold the foil around the potatoes tightly and grill for about 30 minutes turning the packet every 10 minutes. Make sure the potatoes can be easily pierced with a fork and enjoy.
  8. Veggies and dip: Cut 2 zucchini and 2 summer squash into ½” slices cut on the diagonal. Toss slices into ½ cup of Italian dressing. Then grill for 3 minutes per side. Remove from the grill. To make the dip, mix together 2/3 cup sour cream (low fat is fine), 2 chopped scallions (optional), ½ t. Worcestershire sauce, 1 t. lemon juice, 1 t. salt and a little pepper. Kids can help mix up the dip while the veggies are grilling.
  9. Grilled bananas: While younger children may need a little help with this recipe, older children can certainly make them themselves with supervision. Place bananas on the grill in their skins. Keep turning them until the skins are blackened. Remove the stem and skins and slice. Serve them over ice cream for a special treat
  10. Pizza dogs: Cut slices into the hot dogs about ½” apart and ¼” deep. Grill the hot dogs until heated through and the hot dog should be open at the cut marks. Serve hot dogs on a bun with pizza sauce and mozzarella cheese. For younger children, be sure to slice the hotdog lengthwise before serving.
Happy parenting!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

10 Ways to Encourage Children to Read Summer Book Lists

Summer time is here!  Sun, fun, swimming, barbecues, camping, fishing, and .... da da da daaaa....summer reading lists.  What?  Your kids don't want to do the required reading before fourth grade?  They have better things to do than read a book when the sun is shining and the fish are biting? The latest research shows students who read at least 4 books over the summer maintain or even increase their vocabulary and reading skills.  Here are some ideas to help your children appreciate the value of reading during the summer, even if their incoming teacher did not send them home with a list of books.
  1. Model.  If I could offer only one way to encourage kids to read, it would be to read yourself.  I have fond memories of sitting in my back yard with my mother as she read her novel and I read my library book. 
  2. Create a summer reading club.  Invite others in the same grade and reading level to come over once a week to discuss the book they're reading.  It doesn't have to be the exact same book!  In fact, having all the kids read different books will encourage the others to pick up that book, as well.
  3. Keep a chart.  Have your children make a chart of the books they have read. When they have finished a book, they can add a sticker to their chart.  They will love seeing the progress they made. I'm not an advocate of competition, but it helps to see if you're beating your sister in the race to the end of the chart!
  4. Read aloud.  Your childen will get just as much out of a book if you read aloud, even if they are perfectly capable of reading on their own.  This will motivate them to continue the story long after you have finished reading them the first chapter.
  5. Make it fun.  Each time your child finishes a book, put another star on a dark blue poster board. Have fun making constellations, which will encourage the completion of a number of books.  For extra fun, see if you can categorize the books into the constellations - books about bears for ursa major, for example.
  6. Join the library reading incentive program.  Most local libraries have incentives for summer reading.  Find out what your library does for the children in your area.
  7. New words wall.  Make a treasure hunt of new words.  When you child comes across a new word, help him or her to define the word, then post it to your word wall (refrigerator door?). Encourage use of the new words throughout the summer.
  8. Encourage variety. Try to get your children to read different genres: Fiction, nonfiction, biography, science, history, mystery, etc.  Categorize the books they read so you can see where their interest lies.
  9. Make your own list. Kids love to have control over their own lives. (Don't we all!) So, instead of simply using the school's suggested reading list, intersperse that list with your child's own list of books.  Go to the library and get some ideas.  Look online for book reviews for children.  Or shop at yard sales for great summer reading bargains.
  10. Reward. This is way far down the list because I don't think children should receive monetary or food rewards for a job well done. However, if this is the only way to jumpstart your children's summer reading, then offer a small monthly reward - ice cream treat, $1 on a debit card for each book read, or set of three books for younger readers (to be used at the end of summer), etc.  As an alternative, if there is a movie based on the book, tell your kids you'll take them to see the movie when they finish the book!  Compare notes after the movie.
Books will open your child's world to a new dimension.  Remember to "catch 'em being good."  If you find your child reading a book, wait until he puts it down, then give him a pat on the back for reading for the past half hour.  Positive reinforcement goes a long way to encouraging a continuation of that positive behavior.

And I would be remiss if I didn't recommend my own books for children (and one from a friend):
  • PreK-2nd grade: Ducklings in a Row - Will Duck 10 ever get to lead the line?
  • Grades 3-8: Woody's World - The story of one boy's efforts to help his family during The Great Depression.  Based on a true story.
  • Grades 2-6: Somebody Cares! - A young girl plans a very special birthday party.
  • High school: Crash into Me by Al Borris - Four misfit teens on a suicide mission discover the meaning of life. 
Happy parenting!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Emotional discipline

"Your children may not remember everything you say… but they’ll never forget how you made them feel."  Rachelle Gardner

Think back to your own childhood. You probably remember how your mother felt when you came home with an F in math that marking period.  She transferred her feelings to you, so you felt her pain.  She didn't even have to use physical force.  You felt true emotional pain for disappointing her.  Most likely, many of your childhood memories are emotion-based rather than simply facts, words, or events.

So, when disciplining your children, consider that the emotional route is sometimes the most direct route to permanent change in behavior.  When you discipline (translation: punish) your child, you try to teach him or her how to behave.  When you use emotional discipline, you teach that same child to control his or her own behavior.  Internalizing the need to be good is so much more effective than being good so you don't get into trouble with Mom, Dad, teacher, or any other authority figure. 

Consider this scenario:  Your child hit another child because he wanted his toy.  You might yank your child from the playroom, sit him on a chair, and tell him to think about what he did.  Hmm... do you think he actually thinks about what he did or is he really still coveting that toy?  Or maybe, you bring your child inside and lecture him for fifteen minutes on how sharing is so important.  Does he understand or even remember this conversation?  OR, you might go to both children.  Explain that the toy likes it when children play nicely with it. (Dissociate the children from the situation and place the blame on the toy - a tactic I occasionally used when my children were growing up.) Then with a very sad face, explain how you are disappointed with your child's hitting and ask him to apologize to his friend.  Do you think your child will remember this situation more than the other two?  Absolutely!  Why?  First, you personified the toy - kids love that!  Second, you used an emotional rather than physical or verbal method of discipline.  Emotional discpline is far more effective than any other form of punishment like restriction and taking away things from your children. 

Emotions cause behaviors.  The child who hit when he wanted the toy was reacting to greed and anger.  The child who knows how to deal with that greed and anger is acting on self-control and empathy.  Help your children to understand their emotions and they will be better able to control their own behavior.  Emotionally strong children will grow up to become responsible, emotionally strong adults.  And isn't that exactly what parenting is all about?

Happy parenting!

Monday, June 11, 2012

10 Ways to Keep Kids from Accumulating Too Many Toys

This blog comes from my friends at

Even frugal parents can attest to the fact that kids’ toys seem to multiply when no one is watching, slowly growing and taking over several rooms of the house, cluttering every available space, and presenting a tripping hazard for grownups. A bit of observation will usually reveal that the vast majority of these toys are rarely, if ever, touched by the kids that own them. With this in mind, here are ten tricks to keep your kids from storing up toys like miniature hoarders.
  1. One In, One Out – Treat your kids’ bedrooms or playroom like a swanky nightclub; one goes out, another can come in. This forces your kids to choose only the toys that they like best, getting rid of others in order to make room for the new ones, which might help to minimize materialistic ideals later in life.
  2. Organize Garage Sales – If your family is in the practice of arranging garage or rummage sales, it might be a good idea to allow kids their own tables filled with the toys they no longer play with and a cash box of their own. Learning to make correct change, manage money and reduce clutter are all valuable lessons they can learn from this experience.
  3. Donate to Charity – It’s never too early to teach your children the power and value of giving to those that are less fortunate. Explaining the concept of charity toy drives and collections while helping your child choose toys to donate can help them learn compassion while reducing the number of neglected playthings in their rooms.
  4. Cull Periodically – Setting a schedule for culling toys, perhaps with each changing season, is a great way of purging broken, outgrown and simply uninteresting toys that are crowding available space. Getting kids in the habit of preparing for the quarterly purge is a great way to instill the value of organization and routine, as well.
  5. Get Rid of Outgrown Toys – Throwing away a favorite toddler toy might be heartbreaking for parents, but a third-grader probably has little use for the play mats and mobiles he favored as an infant. Storing items with particular sentimental value out of the way is a good way to free up space in your child’s room, but it’s important to be judicious about the pieces you keep, rather than simply storing them all.
  6. Rotate – Placing all of your children’s toys in plastic bins with lids and periodically rotating those bins between their bedrooms and storage is a great way to keep old toys feeling new, and also give you an idea of what can be safely donated or thrown away. Toys that are consistently ignored can be disposed of, making room for the favorites and future gifts.
  7. “Share” With Family – Kids that have a hard time parting with their toys, even those they don’t play with, might warm up to the idea of donation if their old playthings are being “shared” with friends and family members that have children who are slightly younger than they are. Explaining to your child that they’re too old for certain toys, but that the younger child is just the right age and needs them now might ease the sting and help kids understand the concept of sharing.
  8. Toss the Filler – The small, cheap toys that come in fast food kids’ meals and in birthday party favor bags can really contribute to the chaos in your child’s toy box, and are very rarely even noticed by your child. Tossing these trinkets immediately unless your child expresses a particular interest is a good idea; otherwise, you’ll be faced with a mountain of them before you know it.
  9. Store Special Occasion Toys – There are some toys, such as the classic game Mouse Trap, or an Easy Bake Oven, that just aren’t suitable for everyday use. Toys with dozens of small pieces, the ones that make a mess, or those that require close supervision should all be stored away, making room for safer toys that can be played with regularly while keeping the special ones stowed for a rainy-day surprise.
  10. Have an Organizing Day – If the clutter in your kids’ rooms has reached critical mass, having an “organization party” of sorts might be just the trick to get kids interested in helping and squelch rumblings of rebellion at the idea of parting with playthings. Instead of raiding their rooms and disposing of things while the kids are at school, let them make the decisions about what goes; just be prepared to offer guidance and encouragement when they hesitate to part with everything.
While it might be considered presumptuous to request that distant friends and acquaintances refrain from gifting toys and games to your child, very close friends and immediate family will likely be receptive to the idea of giving gifts of clothing, savings bonds or other items rather than contributing to the pile of toys they’ll receive from others on large gift-giving occasions.

Happy parenting!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Summer Swimming Safety

It's that time of year again! Kids play in pools, lakes, and the ocean.  Parents need to be evermindful of their children, not taking their eyes from them for a moment.  It's in that split second that a child can go from a living, breathing, loving child, to a tragedy for the family.  Here are ten tips for summer swimming safety:
  1. Make sure the pool is enclosed by a fence and that the gate is constantly closed and locked. 
  2. Place a motion sensor indicator in the pool so you know when an unauthorized child or dog has taken a dip in your pool.
  3. Use approved safety devices for nonswimmers.  Plastic rings will not prevent a young child from drowning. 
  4. Discourage horseplay around the pool where kids can slip, hit their heads, and enter the water. Even good swimmers can drown this way.
  5. Sign your children up for swimming lessons.  Having your child being able to swim does not mean you can leave him or her alone in the pool, however.  It's merely a second line of defense.
  6. Keep electrical appliances away from the pool where they could fall in and cause electrocution.
  7. Instruct children on dive safety so they know not to dive into the shallow end of the pool.
  8. Hair, clothing, legs, and arms can become ensnared in a pool drain that is lacking a VGB-compliant drain cover. Check those covers regularly for damage.
  9. Children should not swim at night when lighting is not bright enough to be able to ensure the safety of your children.
  10. Above all, make sure there is CONSTANT supervision.  Even distraction from a cell phone call can mean the difference between life and death.
Happy parenting!

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