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Monday, August 21, 2017

August is Family Fun Month! 10 Unique Activities to Enjoy This Fall

Photo by Kei Noguchi (Flickr)

August is Family Fun Month, and my family is definitely celebrating! In fact, my girls and I came up with ten unique activities we're planning to enjoy together in the coming months. Your family might enjoy these fun activities, too!

Watch the Stars

The night sky holds so many wonders, and we plan to spend at least one night stargazing as fall approaches. With a star chart in hand, we'll lie on a blanket in the backyard and find different constellations as we marvel at our wonderful universe.

Plan a Camping Weekend

I love camping outdoors. Usually, we set up a tent in our backyard, and this year is no exception. We'll turn off our phones, eat s'mores, and tell ghost stories as we enjoy the great outdoors together.

Create a Seasonal Soup

Thinking about fall always puts me in the mood for soup. This year, my girls want to help me create a seasonal soup filled with our favorite fall produce and herbs from our garden. Hopefully, our soup will be so good that we'll want to make it together every fall!

Pick Apples

Apples taste better when you pick them yourself, or at least that's what my daughters say. They've already checked out local apple farms online and scheduled a date for us to pick apples as a family.

Bake

As a child, my grandma welcomed fall with fresh fruit pies for her community's harvest festival. I'm looking forward to carrying on her tradition this year with my girls. Together, we will bake her famous caramel pear pie recipe. Hopefully, it will taste as good as hers!

Take a Nature Hike

The vibrant fall colors and cooler temperatures pull me and my girls outdoors every year. We usually hike local trails and look for signs of the season as we enjoy the fresh air and exercise.

Collect Leaves

Colorful fall leaves are easy to find and fun to use in a variety of crafts. My girls especially like to do leaf rubbings. This year, we also plan to laminate leaves in wax paper and turn them into place mats, and my girls want to create a leaf collection.

Make a Seasonal Centerpiece

Dinner time is one of my family's favorite times of the day, and I try to dress up the table with a decorative centerpiece. This fall, my girls decided to create a centerpiece from leaves, branches, acorns, pine cones, rocks, and flowers we collect on our hikes. These seasonal objects will be fun to arrange in a bowl or other container.

Prep Your Lawn for Winter

We spend a lot of time together in our garden during the summer, but our landscaping needs attention in the fall, too. We'll prep our lawn for the upcoming winter as we:

  • Mow the lawn one last time
  • Pull weeds, trim perennials, and mulch flower beds
  • Trim trees and shrubs
  • Collect leaves and deposit them in the compost pile

Volunteer Together

One thing I like about fall is that Thanksgiving is on the way! I like counting my blessings, and volunteering is one way our family can practice gratitude and give back to our community. Together, we will collect food for our local food bank, pull weeds for our neighbors, and visit the local retirement home this fall.

My family is excited about celebrating Family Fun Month in August and throughout the fall. We hope you will join us. What other fun activities does your family enjoy doing together?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Friday, August 18, 2017

Laughter Heals! 7 Ways That Play Builds Emotional Health

Photo by DAVID Swift (Flickr)

Therapist Jenny Florence defines emotional health as a person's ability to understand and respond to emotional experiences. Our kids do experience all kinds of emotions every day, from joy, excitement, and anticipation to anger, disappointment, and sadness. They may be unprepared to handle or process their feelings properly, though. I've found that laughter and play actually help my girls and all kids heal and build their emotional health in seven ways.

Laughter Releases Endorphins

I love watching my girls tell jokes, share funny stories, and laugh with their friends as they play. In fact, laughter actually prompts the brain to release endorphins, feel-good chemicals. Through this simple act, kids can diffuse tension, worry, and stress and feel more positive, cheerful, and upbeat.

Social Play Builds Communication Skills

Some kids, like my younger daughter, struggle with communicating. In her case, she can't always verbalize her emotions, but your kids may have difficulty waiting their turn to talk, speaking up when they have an opinion, or talking to other kids. Play gives kids opportunities to build the healthy communication skills they need now and in the future.

Group Play Prompts Positive Conflict Resolution

My girls usually play nicely together, but yesterday, they fought all day! I finally walked with them to our neighborhood park. After playing for a few minutes, they apologized to each other and began laughing together. This experience is one example of how play can prompt kids to resolve conflicts. They learn to share, express disagreements calmly, and work through differences in a positive way as they play with others.

Pretend Play Encourages Kids to Work Through Emotions

My girls feared the dentist until the day we set up a pretend dental office for their dolls. Pretending to examine their dolls' teeth helped them work through their fear. Whether kids experience fear or a strong emotion like grief, shame, rage, or depression, pretend play encourages them to work through their emotions. In a safe and open environment, they learn to admit, address, and express all of their emotions in a healthy way.

Play Provides a Safe Environment

It's a sad fact that life can be hard for kids sometimes. They may experience anxiety, trauma, or other emotional challenges at home, with friends, or at school. Play can provide a safe environment where children can forget their troubles, be themselves, and have fun without worrying about the challenges in their daily life.

Play Teaches Problem-Solving

Emotions are complicated. My girls sometimes feel sad, happy, or disappointed but don't realize why they feel that way or how to stop. They need to develop essential problem-solving skills, and play can help. As they build block towers, practice soccer, or learn to knit, they figure out how to recognize and solve problems with patience and perseverance, and that skill sets them up for success socially, academically, and emotionally.

Laughter Improves Group Bonding

This year, my older daughter will be in a new building for school. She feels nervous, but I encourage her to look for opportunities to laugh with the kids around her. Laughter is contagious and relaxing, and it also bonds kids together. She'll feel more comfortable, make new friends, and solidify friendships in her new environment as she laughs.

Emotional health is important, and laughter and play build our kids' emotional health in seven ways. How will you encourage and support your child's emotional health today?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Back-to-School Blues Busters: 10 Ways to Brighten Your Child's Lunch Box

Photo by Melissa (Flickr)

Back-to-school season is bittersweet for me. While I want my girls to get a good education, I also miss them, and they miss me! I've decided this year to use their lunch boxes to remind them of my love, encouragement, and support. I've found 10 unique ways to brighten my girls' lunch boxes and break through the back-to school blues.

Prep Lunches Together

We can't be together during the school day, so my girls and I prep their lunches together the night before. They already know how to cook and often create unique sandwiches, soups, and snacks for their lunch boxes. As we work together, we also laugh and talk. When they open their lunch boxes the next day, I know they will remember our prep time and smile then, too.

Write a Note

On a banana, neon paper, or sandwich bag, write a note for your child. I sometimes draw a simple heart or write a longer note telling them something I appreciate about them, something they're good at doing, or a recent moment when I caught them doing something good for someone else. This fun reminder that I'm thinking of them usually makes them smile.

Create a Puzzle

My younger daughter's newest obsession is word searches, so I've started creating small ones for her lunch box. Crosswords, sudoku, or other puzzles are also fun ways give your child a smile break in the middle of the school day.

Tell a Joke

At the library this summer, we found a fun kids' joke book. We spent hours laughing together as we read through that book, which shows me that they will appreciate a joke in their lunch boxes.

Share a Photo or Memento of a Fun Time

Recalling shared memories bonds us as a family. That's why I like to pack a photo or small memento like a painted pebble from our recent vacation or a feather from our latest craft project in my girls' lunch boxes. They'll be encouraged and remember that they're loved whenever they see these reminders of fun times.

Insert a Sticker

While shopping for school supplies, I found a few fun, inspirational, and cute stickers. They're perfect gifts for lunch boxes. I know my younger daughter laughs at the cartoon stickers I bought for her, and my older daughter likes her emoji stickers.

Cut Food Into Cute Shapes

Fun foods brighten anyone's day. Sometimes, I decorate their sandwiches to look like faces or use cookie cutters to create shaped cheese, fruit, or cookies.

Write an Inspirational Quote

It's natural for parents to want their children to feel happy all of the time, but kids sometimes feel sad, discouraged, or tired. I've found that inspirational quotes reminds my girls that they can succeed and that I love them and support them as they persevere!

Give Them a Survey

I may not be able to shadow my girls while they're at school, but I can use a fun survey to get feedback about their day. It asks questions about who they sat with at lunch, the best part of their day, and what they didn't like about the day. I can even customize it with my own questions and designs.

Send an Invitation

I value one-on-one time with my girls, which is harder to find when school's in session. Sometimes, I send an invitation in their lunch box and invite them on a special date. We may grab an ice cream cone, visit the park, or walk around the mall. The thought of special mom time always helps my girls smile as they anticipate fun time together.

Since my kids started the school year, these ideas have been helping me to make them smile at lunch time. What other ways do you brighten your child's lunch box?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Aloe There! 10 Adorable Succulent Craft Ideas For Kids

Photo by Kim Love (Flickr)

My girls and I said, "Aloe there!" to succulents recently, and we're having a blast caring for them! Succulents are colorful, easy to take care of, and perfect for novice gardeners. You can even use the plants or cuttings for crafts. After doing some research, my girls made a list of ten adorable succulent craft ideas they're excited to try.

Personalized Succulent Planter

We're always on the lookout for unique gift ideas for birthdays, holidays, and other special occasions, and a personalized succulent planter is an easy and fun gift idea. Start with a plain, white, rectangular bin. With a permanent marker, decorate the bin with pictures, the recipient's name, or words that describe the person. Fill the bin with soil and the succulents and you'll have a unique, personalized gift for any occasion.

Hanging Globe Terrarium

My girls became obsessed with terrariums after my mom bought one for her kitchen. We recently found globe terrariums that will look cute hanging around our house. To make a hanging globe terrarium for succulents, first, place soil in the globe, and then add your choice of succulents. Sprinkle decorative sand, crushed shells, or colorful stones on top of the soil. Hang the terrarium from a hook, drawer pull, or tree and enjoy your unique garden.

Succulent Garland

We sometimes decorate our fireplace mantel or even bookcases with garland. I think a succulent garland will be our next project! With wire and a variety of succulent cuttings, you can create a garland of any length. Hang it anywhere, mist it regularly, and you'll have a living garland that's pretty and unique.

Fairy Garden

At the garden center today, my girls and I saw the cutest fairy garden items! We decided we had to make one of our own. In a planter filled with dirt, we arranged succulents and fairy garden items. We chose a tea party theme, but your kids can customize their fairy garden based on their interests.

Succulent Ball

For Christmas last year, my neighbor gave us an herb ball. It's basically a moss ball covered in glue and aromatic herbs. We think it will be fun to modify this idea with succulents. To make one, first, soak a sphagnum moss ball of any size in water. Use scissors or a pencil to poke holes in it, and then push succulent cuttings through the holes, starting at the bottom and working your way to the top. When the ball is covered with succulents, hang it anywhere and enjoy your beautiful craft.

Succulent Birdcage

My older daughter purchased the cutest vintage birdcage at a garage sale last month! She said it will make a pretty succulent planter. In the bottom of the birdcage, she'll place landscaping fabric followed by soil. Then, she plans to arrange succulents inside. She might even attach a few cuttings with wire to the outside of the cage. If she mists her succulent birdcage regularly, it will thrive and be a cute decorative addition to her bedroom.

Succulent Ring

My girls know that their grandma loves jewelry. That's why they're excited to make her a succulent ring. To make your own, simply wind a piece of floral aluminum wire around your finger. Attach a leaf or moss to the wire for stability. Add small pieces of succulents until you get the look you want, and then enjoy your new jewelry!

Lantern Planter

My dad has a few old lanterns hanging around his shed. Instead of tossing them, he gave them to us to use as succulent planters. Inside each lantern, we'll place a Mason jar lid and fill it with soil. Then, we'll plant the succulents. My girls think this craft will look cute hanging from a hook on our deck, and I agree!

Eggshell Succulent Garden

As soon as my girls saw a picture of an eggshell succulent garden, they asked to make omelets. They plan to transform the eggshells into a unique succulent creation. After you clean the shells, you can fill them about three-quarters full with soil. Insert succulent cuttings, secure your mini planters in an egg carton or other container, and watch your garden grow.

Succulent Wreath

We try to change the decoration on our front door seasonally. This summer, my girls want to make a succulent wreath. To make this easy decorative piece, poke holes in a foam wreath form, insert succulent cuttings into the holes, and hang the wreath with a ribbon or hook.

Succulents are fun and easy for novice gardeners and crafters. Which of these adorable succulent craft ideas do your kids want to say "aloe there" to first?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

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