The Parent-Teacher-Child Connection: 2016

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Make it a Healthy Halloween

Even all the candy given on Valentine’s Day can’t compete with the tons of candy distributed to children on Halloween.  Here are some frightening statistics from the California Milk Processing Board:
  • Americans will spend an estimated $2 billion on candy during the Halloween season.
  • The average Jack-O-Lantern bucket carries about 250 pieces of candy amounting to about 9,000 calories and about three pounds of sugar.
Wow! That’s a lot of candy!  The ritual of dressing in costumes, ringing doorbells, and chanting “Trick or Treat” to extort the neighbors of their treats began in the early 1940s.  But even then, candy wasn’t the treat of choice.  Young ghosts and goblins were happy to receive small toys, nuts, fruit, and even coins.  So how did this candy-extravaganza begin?

Two things happened concurrently to change the October 31 tradition.  First, the number of little visitors increased in astronomical proportions into the 1960s as kids discovered they could get something for free on Halloween.  Second, candy manufacturers, seeing an opportunity to increase sales during a slow season, advertised the less expensive alternative to toys and coins.  It was a win-win situation.  Homeowners could spend less money to avoid having their houses “tricked” and the children got a bucket-load of cavity-inducing candy.

How can you begin a reverse trend to when kids got healthier treats without alienating all the ghosts, witches, super heroes, and princesses?  Here is a list of options that will elicit a collective oohs and aahs from young visitors as they find you don't actually give them yet another candy bar!  Depending on the number of visitors and the age you expect, decide which is most economical for you.  All are under $10:
  • Individual sized play clay party bag (15 one-ounce cans)
  • Bubbles (24 crayon-shaped containers)
  • Party pack of crayons (12 packs of 4 crayons each)
  • Glowing bracelets (100 sticks of Halloween fun!)
  • Emoji stress balls (12 funny faces)
  • Small plastic animals (25-30 farm or wild creatures)
  • LED finger lights (40 colorful choices to help children be seen better at night)
  • Glider planes (24 easy-to-assemble foam flyers)
  • Pull-back racing cars (12 2½” cars – no batteries required!)
  • Watercolor paint sets with brush (12 palettes for budding artists)
And this is simply a partial list of options.  Go to your local party store and you’ll find many other ideas for offering one or more candy-free options to your young visitors this year.  Depending on what you choose, you might even save money because a 60-piece bag of fun-sized candy costs about $20.

But then there are your neighbors who don’t buy into your healthier Halloween scheme and actually give out full-size candy bars! What can you do with all that candy?  Many dentists are offering to collect a weighed portion of candy in exchange for a small toy.  Operation Shoebox sends candy to troops overseas who need the extra calories and good thoughts from home.  You can also freeze the candy and dole it out little-by-little, as a treat for certain accomplishments.  Use the little round candies as the basis for a trail mix that includes healthier tidbits like peanuts and raisins.  You might even use the candy for science experiments (go online – you’ll find many ways to investigate candy under a microscope, or by adding a variety of liquids to chart melting times!)  Ask you little goblins for their own suggestions on how to best use surplus Halloween candy.

What about the inevitable pre-extortion snacks at your house before everyone goes out to the neighbors? Maybe you realize your kids will have plenty of candy later and want to have a nutritious snack or meal before they leave.  But unless you make it interesting, kids will likely “save room” for the “good stuff!”  The award-winning cookbook, Everybody Cooks! STEM Facts and Recipes for Family Cooperation and Healthier Eating - Holiday Favorites Edition contains a wonderful recipe for banana ghosts and orange pumpkins.  Sure, you can find a similar recipe online, but this book presents step-by-step instructions for cooperatively making the snacks together as a family.  There’s even a section on banana science which explains how bananas ripen from green to yellow.
So, how will you celebrate a Healthy Halloween this year?  Start making plans now to make it the best Halloween ever!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Help Your Child to Make Friends in a New School

The move to a new school district is traumatic enough for your children without adding the pressure of finding new friends.   Between the boxes, the setup of utilities, and your own inherent changes, you may have forgotten that your little people may be terrified of going to a new school, especially if you move in the middle of the school year.  Here are some suggestions to help them overcome the challenge of making new friends:

1.       Show your child through your example how to make new friends.  Take her with you when you go grocery shopping so she can see how you talk with people you’ve never met, perhaps asking for directions to a specific product.  Then when you get in the car, discuss how the new “friend” was helpful, kind, and not at all scary!

2.       Discuss your children’s interests and encourage them to join a club, team, or band.  Yes, it may be the middle of the year, but most people, kids included, will open up if they see someone new who shares their own interests.  This applies to parents, as well.  Join a new church or temple, find a parents’ support group, or go to the local library and find a listing of the local interest groups.

3.       Get to know your new neighbors.  Surely there are others who have children in the same grade as yours. Invite them over for a play date and monitor the interaction.  If you see your child shrinking into the corner, make a suggestion about which game to play.  Avoid suggesting which TV show or movie to watch because that doesn’t encourage conversation and interaction.

4.       Your child probably doesn’t want to hear this advice, but it is generally the way to go: “Just be yourself.”  If your kids try to too hard to be like the kids in the new school, they may find that they don’t like themselves very much.  Show them that they can find other children with similar interests by listening to conversations around them.  However, also help them to understand that they shouldn’t interrupt the conversation with their own experiences.   They should wait a bit and then show the others that they have a similar interest.

5.       Brainstorm the qualities of a good friend, perhaps the qualities of the friends they left at the old school. Help them to see that people are pretty much the same all over and the likelihood of finding a friend with characteristics they enjoy is quite high.

​6.      Read books about making friends.  Oxygen Finds Friends is the perfect example of an outsider looking to fit in!  Find out how oxygen gets together with hydrogen and carbon to create water and creatures on earth!

Strong friendships are important to good mental health.  If you see that your child is not making any friends by the end of the first month in the new school, talk to the counselor at your child’s school and get professional help.  That person may be able to set up a meet and greet with a few children she knows would enjoy helping a new child adjust.

Shelfari: Book reviews on your book blog